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The Other Algeria: Zidane, World Cup Soccer, Globalization, and the Media

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Media Coverage of Sport

Because of the important attempts to link sport and national identity, the focus on nationalist discourses is one of the recurring elements in understanding media coverage of international sporting competitions. As McKay found in her analysis of rugby and cricket competitions between Australia and South Africa, “… sports journalists seemed both willing and able to set up frames to make wide-ranging comment both on the matches they were reporting and on wider political and social issues.”[24] This is somewhat alarming as these commentators were hired to discus sports and not political and social issues. On the other hand, the globalization of sport and its presentation through the media has almost inadvertently drawn the sports journalist into the realm of political and social commentator as well.

Because international sporting discourses tend to reproduce dominant ideologies, as mentioned above, “there is seepage and slippage inviting media consumers to focus on various elements within the frame.”[25] This is a key point that leads to the importance of investigating not only official or elite discourses such as one finds in the national press, but also popular discourses which are produced by fans and spectators of global sporting events.

If we can take fan- and spectator-produced discourses as examples of fan behavior, we must consider the interaction between fans and dominant discourses. Here, it is important to underline Crabbe’s finding that, “[f]an behaviours and their representations must be seen as mutually constituted in an ongoing interplay within the discourses in which we experience our ‘realities’.”[26] This reminds us of the critical fact that with a global sporting event, the vast majority of the spectators view the match in a mediated setting as opposed to participating live at the venue. As such, the discourse through which the sport is presented to the fan may be reproduced in the fan’s own behavior and subsequent representation of the event. This is to say that while Delgado raises the central issue of “slippage” in dominant discourses, we must also recognize that fan reactions are developed in relation to the existing dominant discourse.

A second focus relevant to the discussion of Zidane’s head butt at the 2006 World Cup final is the relationship between media coverage, commodification of sporting competitions, and acceptable levels of violence. Hutchins & Phillips noted in their analysis of Australian Rugby League that technological and economic developments in the sport, as well as social and political developments in society, combined to mediate acceptable levels of on-field violence in relation to the commodification of Rugby League.[27] Violence has become an important selling point, but only up to the limit of what might be acceptable within common social interpretations of the sport.

In terms of marketing a global spectacle to the public, an additional element that is becoming important is the producing and selling of locality to a cosmopolitan audience.[28] Audiences seek global sport at least in part because it represents exotic locales or cultures while maintaining the familiarity brought about by the rules of the particular sport in question.

Because the global media industry is run on largely capitalist terms, the economics of broadcasting can have a significant influence on the discourses produced as well. This means that in developing discourses that emphasize national uniqueness, producers may incorporate violence and or a sense of the exotic as a means of drawing in viewers in order to pay the bills. Fans then (at least those who participate in the mediated sports event) are interacting with, politically and economically speaking, highly directed representations of the match. This type of discourse is especially evident in relation to explanations of events that fall outside the realm of the rules of the game. Thus, with these points in mind, we must ask what discourses were produced around Zinédine Zidane’s head butt of Marco Materazzi during the final of the 2006 World Cup soccer tournament? Secondly, we must ask what influences are present in the processes of building these discourses?


Though Maguire’s assessment of the global media-sport complex ignores all but a central European-American axis, he raises important notions of loci for analysis of the relationship between global sporting spectacles such as the soccer World Cup and cultural identity negotiation.[29] Importantly, he notes three critical areas of interaction as sites for further research: production of cultural products, political economy, and consumer consumption. As these three elements force research into assuming a capitalist market relationship, I will argue here for looking at local participation. Further, the shift from consumption to local participation returns our emphasis on the active process of negotiation that reminds us that cultural identities are dynamic fields themselves.

In order to explore audience participation, I look at two of Maguire’s research areas, political economy and local participation, as I have recast consumption in this manner. I conduct a short political economic analysis of broadcast rights as concerns the Algerian public because the implications are important to understanding the Algerian discursive construction of Zidane’s performance during the final match that was played July 9, 2006 between France and Italy in Berlin. This analysis seeks to shed light on the ways in which the Algerian public was able to participate in the World Cup. I look at the ways the broadcast rights were allocated, the Algerian government role in attempting to purchase rights for the national audience, as well as the role of satellite broadcasting corporations.

At a second level, I undertook a discourse analysis to understand the relationship between French and Algerian reactions to the shocking performance by French national team captain Zinédine Zidane. This discourse analysis was composed of several parts, representing the elite of French and Algerian societies (taking the press as conveyors of elite opinion, and as opinion leaders), and at a variety of video games and video clips as a means of assessing French and global popular reaction. These games and videos were produced not by members of the elite, but by fans and spectators. Within each of these categories, I noted characterizations of Zidane and other players, themes, and with the videos and games – tone and feel produced by music and visual imagery. I had no easy means of assessing Algerian popular reactions, as I had to leave Algeria before the July 9 match and the difficulty of Internet access for Algerian citizens made Algerian popular production too limited for consideration. As a result, I examined the political cartoons of Ali Dilem of Liberté – a national newspaper printed in Algiers, who is well known for being in touch with popular sentiment, in his caricatures of Algerian society (see Appendix A).

First, I explored French national elite discourse about Zidane’s performance during the July 9, 2006 match. To do so, I examined all of the coverage in Le Monde between July 7 and July 22, 2006 – after this time, there was no longer any coverage of the match or of Zidane’s performance other than sporadic mention in relation to other topics. I chose Le Monde as it is one of the most respected of the national press printed in Paris and is an opinion leader within the French media elite and among the elite within the French public. I then compared this with coverage from one of the most prominent French-language national dailies in Algeria El Watan.

In this study, I use the model of Critical Discourse analysis which focuses on the fact that discourses are socially constitutive. Wodak et al. claim that:

Discursive acts are socially constitutive in a variety of ways. Firstly, they are largely responsible for the genesis, production and construction of particular social conditions. Secondly, they can contribute to the restoration, legitimation or relativisation of a social status quo (ante). Thirdly, discursive acts are employed to maintain and reproduce the status quo. Fourthly, discursive practice may be effective in transforming, dismantling or even destroying the status quo. In view of these social macrofunctions, we distinguish in this book between constructive, perpetuating and/or justifying discursive strategies as well as strategies of transformation and dismantlement or disparagement.[30]

Specifically, the analysis here explores the positive and negative aspects of the aforementioned discourses with the goal of understanding their role in the identity negotiation processes of the nations involved.

Images of Zidane and Algeria: Broadcasting the 2006 World Cup

To understand how Zidane’s performance was characterized, and by extension how Algeria was characterized as well, I will look at 4 aspects of the global discourse. Outside of Algeria, I will look at what was written in the elite press as well as at fan reactions in the form of songs, videos, and computer games; similarly. I will look at the elite press inside Algeria and attempt to examine public reactions too. Before exploring the discourses presented however, it is important to understand how the World Cup was mediated for both audiences outside and inside Algeria.

The Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), soccer’s global governing body allocates broadcasting rights by regions that correspond roughly to continents. Those rights are sold to the highest bidder, and in turn, local broadcasters purchase rights for their country from the regional owner.[31] This posed a serious problem for the Algerian public as Saudi satellite broadcaster ART, owner of broadcast rights for Africa and the Middle East refused to sell the signal to ENTV, the Algerian state broadcasting corporation.[32] ENTV even went to court against FIFA to try to be able to offer the World Cup games to Algerian fans.[33] ART, on the other hand, wanted to sell the games on a pay-per-view basis through their satellite channels in order to reap the financial benefits of this practice.[34] This practice would, however, prevent a large number of the 34 million inhabitants of Algeria from viewing the games, as the cost of access was set at 2000 dinars (about 1/5 of the minimum monthly wage in Algeria and still well out of the reach of most who earn even above the minimum wage). In the end, the Algerian state promised to offer discounted access cards to those who could prove financial need.[35] This led to a growing black-market traffic in these subscription cards, as fans sought any means possible to watch the World Cup[36]. Another problem that Algerians encountered was that outside of Algiers, the cards were only available beginning on June 9th, the first day of World Cup play.[37] This meant that soccer fans outside of Algiers had to scramble to be able to watch the early matches.

The technically savvy Algerian soccer fans resorted to pirating the codes to watch their favorite sport for free. This occurred because, although French broadcast stations are transmitted by satellite for free to Algeria, the French broadcasters decided to transmit the soccer games in high definition and to encrypt the signals. As a result, viewers in Algeria were again deprived of the ability to watch the games live on French TV; the costs were too great. Some Algerian hackers even went so far as to post hacks for the satellite broadcasts on their websites in an effort to make the World Cup more accessible for the public.

Not only were Algerian soccer fans deprived of live coverage of the games on their own television station, they were limited to foreign press accounts of the matches. Algerian newspapers did not have the funds or personnel to send their own correspondents to Germany, and thus were reliant themselves upon what the rest of the world’s press wrote. This further contributed to Algeria’s inability to represent itself through the performance of Zidane. Greater detail on how this shaped the discourses produced by the Algerian press will be given below.

Previous Page [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [Appendix A] [Appendix B] Next Page


[i] Alan Tomlinson & Christopher Young, “Culture, Politics, and Spectacle in the Global Sports Event – An Introduction, “Chapter 1 in A. Tomlinson & C. Young (eds.) National Identity and Global Sports Events: Culture, Politics, and Spectacle in the Olympics and the Football World Cup (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2006), 1.

[2]  John Nauright, “Global games: culture, political economy and sport in the globalised world of the 21st century,” Third World Quarterly, 25, 7 (2004), 1334.

[3] Tim Edensor, National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life (New York: Berg, 2002).

[4] Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983).

[5] Eric Hobsbawm & Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983).

[6] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983).

[7] Anthony Smith, National Identity (London: Penguin, 1991). and Anthony Smith,   Nationalism and Modernism (London: Routledge, 1998).

[8] John Hutchinson, Modern Nationalism (London: HarperCollins, 1994).

[9] Ruth Wodak, Rudolf de Cillia, Martin Reisigl, & Karin Liebhart, The Discursive Construction of National Identity, Translated by Angelika Hirsch & Richard Mitten (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd, 1999), 28.

[10] Cathie Lloyd, Thinking about the Local and the Global in the Algerian Context, Oxford Development Studies, 30, 2, (2002), 161.

[11]  Lahouari Addi, Nationality and Algerian Immigrants in France, Chapter 11 of Alec. G. Hargreaves & Michael J. Heffernan (eds.) French and Algerian Identities from Colonial Times to the Present: A Century of Interaction (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1993), 219.

[12] Wodak et al. (1999), 4.

[13] Philip Schlesinger, Media, State, and Nation: Political Violence and Collective Identities (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1991). and Philip Schlesinger,  Wishful Thinking: Cultural Politics, Media, and Collective Identities in Europe, Journal of Communication, 43, 2, (1993), 6-17.

[14] Fernando Delgado, The Fusing of Sport and Politics: Media Constructions of U.S. Versus Iran at France ’98, Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 27, 3, (2003), 295.

[15] Richard Giulianotti & Gerry P.T. Finn, Old Visions, Old Issues: New Horizons, New Openings? Change, Continuity and Other Contradictions in World Football, Epilogue of Gerry P.T. Finn & Richard Giulianotti (eds.), Football Culture: Local Contests, Global Visions (Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2000), 256-282.

[16] Joseph Maguire, Global Sport: Identities, Societies, Civilizations (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 1999), 182.

[17] ibid.

[18] ibid.

[19] David Rowe, Sport and the Repudiation of the Global, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 38, 3, (2003), 285.

[20] Giulianotti & Finn (2000), 258.

[21] Nauright (2004).

[22] Maguire (1999).

[23] Nauright (2004), 1331.

[24] Susan McKay, Taking the Politics Out of Sport? Australian Press Coverage of South African-Australian Sport, 1992-1994, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 33, 3, (1998), 265.

[25] Delgado (2003), 304.

[26] Tim Crabbe, 'The Public Gets What The Public Wants:’ England Football Fans, ‘Truth’ Claims and Mediated Realities, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 38, 4, (2003), 423.

[27] Brett Hutchins & Murray G. Phillips, Selling Permissible Violence: The Commodification of Australian Rugby League 1970-1995, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 32, 2, (1997), 161-176

[28] Kirsten Frandsen, Globalisation and Localisation – TV Coverage of the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000, In Stig Hjarvard (ed.), Media in a Globalized Society (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2003), 159-185.

[29] Maguire (1999).

[30] Wodak et al. (1999), 8.

[31] “TV rights & opportunities,” Fédération Internationale de Football Association, (2006) [Available: WWW – http://www.fifa.com/en/marketing/newmedia/index/0,1347,1,00.html].

[32] Samia Lokmane, L’Algérie saisit la Fifa. Liberté, (2006, June 6) [Available: WWW – http://www.liberte-algerie.com].

[33] ibid.

[34] ibid.

[35] Nabila Afroun, Ould-Abbès promet des cartes ART aux étudiants et aux démunis, Liberté, (2006, June 8) [Available: WWW – http://www.liberte-algerie.com].

[36] Mustapha Benfodil, Le petit business des cartes “ART,” Liberté, (2006, June 8) [Available: WWW – http://www.liberte-algerie.com].

[37]  “Afflux considérable à Alger,” . Liberté, (2006 June 10) [Available: WWW – http://www.liberte-algerie.com].

[38]  Frédéric Potet, Zidane, Thuram, Barthez de retour en finale de la Coupe du monde, Le Monde, (2006, July 7) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[39]        Pascal Ceaux, Zinédine Zidane, ou comment ré́ussir ses adieux, Le Monde, (2006, July 7) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[40] Elie Barth, Le fabuleux retour des grognards, Le Monde, (2006, July 8) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[41]  ibid.

[42] Pierre Jaxel-Truer, Zidane une icône française, Le Monde, (2006, July 9) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[43] Eric Collier, Zidane La Touche Finale, Le Monde, (2006, July 9) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[44] ibid.

[45] Mustapha Kessous, Zidane, héros lointain et décevant de la Castellane, Le Monde, (2006, July 11) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[46] Bruno Caussé, Zidane, la légende ternie, Le Monde, (2006, July 11) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[47] Kessous (2006).

[48] Caussé (2006).

[49] ibid.

[50] Pierre Jaxel-Truer, Mais qu'a bien pu dire Materazzi à Zidane? Le Monde, (2006, July 12) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[51] Stéphane Mandard, Ziné́dine Zidane pré́sente des excuses mais se dit sans regrets, Le Monde, (2006, July 14) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[52] ibid.

[53] “Pour Zidane, ‘Le vrai coupable’ est l’italien Materazzi,” Le Monde, (2006, July 14) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[54] Pierre Jaxel-Truer, Les Paradoxes de l’Affaire Zidane, Le Monde, (2006, July 14)[Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[55] Stéphane Mandard, Zidane et Materazzi convoqués par la FIFA, Le Monde, (2006, July 15) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[56] Philippe Marlière, Zinédine Zidane, la "malé́diction italienne," Le Monde, (2006, July 22) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[57] Tahar Hani, Finale de la coupe du monde 2006: sous le signe de Zidane, El Watan, (2006, July 9) [Available: WWW – http://www.elwatan.com].

[58] “Ils ont dit: Partenaires, adversaires, et admirateurs de Zidane ont parlé de lui pendant le Mondial 2006 de football,” El Watan, (2006, July 9) [Available: WWW – http://www.elwatan.com].

[59] “Bouteflika felicite Zinedine Zidane,” El Watan, (2006, July 11) [Available: WWW – http://www.elwatan.com].

[60]  ibid.

[61] Omar Kharoum, Après l’expulsion de Zidane lors de France-Italie: les raisons d’un geste, El Watan, (2006, July 11) [Available: WWW – http://www.elwatan.com].

[62] Camille Lacoste-Dujardiin, Dictionnaire de la culture berbère en Kabylie (Paris: Editions La Découverte, 2005).

[63] Azzedine Hammou, Zidane dévoile les propos racistes de Materazzi, El Watan, (2006, July 13) [Available: WWW – http://www.elwatan.com].

[64] ibid.

[65] ibid.

[66]  “Marco le Sicilien, un récidiviste,” El Watan, (2006, July 12) [Available: WWW – http://www.elwatan.com].

[67]  Nacéra Benali, L’homme fier et le fourbe, El Watan, (2006, July 12) [Available: WWW – http://www.elwatan.com].

[68] Mustapha Cherif, Zidane a gagné la paix intérieure! El Watan, (2006, July 19) [Available: WWW – http://www.elwatan.com].

[69] “Marco le Sicilien” (2006).

[70] Rémi Yacine, Zidane rentre dans la légende, El Watan, (2006, July 11) [Available: WWW – http://www.elwatan.com].

[71] Hutchins & Phillips (1997).

[72]  Miss France, façon Zidane – Google Video [Available: WWW – http://video.google.fr/videoplay?docid=6080528571674016618&q=zidane].

[73] Zidane Owns Fidel Castro [Available: WWW – http://zidaneownsfidelcastro.ytmnd.com/].

[74]  “ ’Coup de Boule,’ écrite en une demi-heure, en passé d’être le tube de l’été,” Agence France Presse, (2006, July 27) [Available: Lexis-Nexis].

[75] ibid.

[76] Sébastien Lipszyc, Emmanuel Lipszyc, & Franck Lascombes, Coup de Boule, [Windows Media file] Paris: LaPlage Records (2006) [Available: WWW – http://www.coupdeboule.net].

[77] “Le Zouk,” Radio France Outre-Mer, (2005, March 18) [Available: WWW- http://musiques.rfo.fr/article34.html].

[78]  “Le Coup de Boule en tête,” Le Soir, (2006, August 3)  [Available: WWW – http://www.lesoir.be/culture/musiques/2006/08/03/article_le_coup_de_boule_en_tete.shtml].

[79] cf. Joseph Straubhaar, Multiple Television Flows for Multi-Layered Cultural Identities? (2006) Paper presented to the annual conference of the Global Fusion Consortium. Chicago IL. and David Winterstein, Language and Media in the Promotion of the Breton Cultural Identity in the European Union. doctoral dissertation. (Seattle, WA: University of Washington, 2001


Editor's Note
Bob Walter


The Other Algeria: Zidane, World Cup Soccer, Globalization, and the Media
David Winterstein

The Paradox of Gender and Sport Development: The Case of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan
David Bogopa




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