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

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Public reactions

Newspaper coverage was but the tip of the iceberg in response to Zidane’s performance. Videos and video games were part of an outpouring of reactions by fans to Zidane’s head butt. I counted 5 video games, all constructed around the concept of the computer user playing the role of Zidane and head butting opponents that looked like Marco Materazzi in order to score points and win the game. Some had very clear to-the-point titles, like “the Zidane Head Butt Game,” and “Jogo do Zidane Cabeção” (Portuguese for Zidane head butt game – this game was produced in Brazil). Others were more creative, such as “Hit it like Zidane” (which could refer to his style of play rather than head butting, but alas, the latter is what is involved in this game), “Head of God,” and “ZZ Strop.” “Head of God” as a title emphasizes Zidane’s hero qualities, and relates well with the many statements in the press that likened the French player to a god. On the other hand, all of these games focus only on the violent action that took place, and none of them make any attempt to put that violence into context. I would also add that there was another game produced in the same genre called “Rooney on the Rampage,” patterned after England player Wayne Rooney’s fighting with Portuguese player Ricardo Carvalho. Perhaps then, as Hutchins & Philips found, violence has become one of the commodities that is sold by the World Cup.[71] On the other hand, this has the effect of stereotyping Zidane, and because of the persistent links to his Algerian heritage, the Algerian people as senselessly violent.

In addition to the video games were a plethora of video clips produced by selectively editing the head butt footage along with other incidents as well as computer-generated video. For instance, using the search terms “Zidane headbutt” on Youtube.com, a site that collects video clips submitted by the public, returned 842 hits. The content ranges from fantasy, with a clip called Miss World, Zidane Style in which Miss France headbutts Miss Italy to win the crown of Miss World;[72] to conspiracy with a clip called Zidane Owns Fidel Castro in which the now infamous shot of the Cuban leader falling off of a stage is cut with Zidane’s head butt to appear as if Castro’s fall was caused by Zidane.[73] While on the surface, both of these short clips seem to be harmless, humorous spoofs of public images, the message is clear: Zidane’s behavior on the World Cup Soccer field was only recognized for its violence. Furthermore, violence taken completely out of context and placed in a different situation legitimates the violent part of the action.

The second aspect of this de-contextualization of the violence of Zidane’s act is that such videos are comic in nature. This serves two purposes: the first is that fans identify with their sports heroes and want to see them as positive role models. Clearly, when a player such as Zidane, who has become symbolic of fair play and charity for work in Algeria and for children in Europe, violently head butts an opposing player, his status as positive role model is threatened. Fans, already identifying with Zidane as a positive role model, can use the humor in these videos to distance themselves from negative aspects of their hero. The second influence of the de-contextualization of violence is that it makes violence acceptable by putting it into a safe context. We know that Fidel Castro tripped on the stage, and we know that Miss World contestants do not head butt each other, so we can laugh at the possibility of these events occurring. On the other hand, the unreal nature of these situations casts doubt on the reality of Zidane’s actual head butt of Marco Materazzi. This allows us to compartmentalize the violence and set it aside from the soccer game. In so doing, we become both more accustomed to violence because we are seeing it in so many more situations, and we become accepting of it because it is not really part of the game of soccer.

While many of these video clips (such as Miss World Zidane Style, and Zidane Owns Fidel Castro) are only seconds long, a more widespread, longer reaction to Zidane’s head butt and the French World Cup loss came in the form of a pop single – “Coup de Boule.” Coup de Boule (see Appendix B) is a slang term in French for head butt, and the title is also a visual word play on Coupe du Monde, the French term for World Cup. This song, and the accompanying music video, was produced by French advertising music producers La Plage Records. A short 2 minutes and 36 seconds, this song was written and produced in about 30 minutes by owners Sébastien and Emmanuel Lipszyc and singer Franck Lascombes after the World Cup Final ended according to Agence France Presse (AFP).[74] AFP went on to say that they forwarded it via email to some friends and it soon became an Internet hit; so big in fact that by:

Wednesday night, a contract had been signed with Warner Music France. By Thursday, cell phone ring tones and downloads were available, and by Saturday a music video was produced at the Charléty stadium in Paris. By the following Thursday, in record time, the single was available in stores.[75]

This song again uses comedy to distance audience members from the violence of Zidane’s actions and from the defeat of the French team. The words are light. They make fun of the referees (“the referee saw it on TV” – the head referee did not see Zidane’s head butt, and relied on the video replay to make his call) and perceived poor play by striker David Trezeguet (“When he played, he messed up” – refers to Trezeguet’s missed penalty shot after Zidane had been sent off) and goalkeeper Fabien Barthez (“Barthez stopped nothing, it’s not too complicated” – Barthez did not stop any of the Italian penalty shots and consequently the Italians won the match on these penalty goals) as well as critiquing Zidane’s head butt. The song continues, saying, “We lost the Cup, but we had a good laugh.”[76] In essence, we are told to laugh off the disappointing play by the stars of French soccer. This is again an attempt to distance us as fans and spectators from our disappointment.

Nonetheless, the discourse is more complicated than a simple use of comedy to erase disappointment. Musically, the song genre is a Zouk, a variety of music that originally comes from Guadeloupe & Martinique and is dance or party music[77]. It is meant to be light and happy, and thus to distract and distance the audience from the loss and from Zidane’s head butt. More critically though, it is a genre that comes from a French overseas territory, and is also a means of distancing the metropolitan French audience from the perceived failure of its multicultural national soccer team. The diversity of the French national team was celebrated in 1998 when they won the World Cup, but the diversity of French society has often been a source of tension as is the multicultural nature of any large modern nation-state. Immigrants in France, especially North Africans (like Zidane’s family) and Blacks (from the Caribbean and Africa), are often seen as problems as their history is linked to a complicated and painful colonial legacy. Some groups, including the National Front, seek a return to “simpler days” when France was “white.” This is clearly not possible, nor desirable, nor was France ever a mono-cultural entity.

We see further evidence of a racialized form of distancing in the discourse when we look at the visual imagery of the music video. The video features a group of cheerleaders dancing to the refrain of the song – all of whom are black, as are all of the other characters in the video with the exception of a television announcer character and 3 spectators, pointing out that the whole situation is a violent one. White people are either the announcers – thus not involved but holding a position of power in terms of creating the discourse about the game on the field, or they are spectators – again not involved and thus exempt from blame. This racialized form of distancing poses an additional dilemma from the perspective of national identity. It calls into question French national identity, adding race as a criterion for inclusion. Further, it seeks to place the failure of the French national team outside of France and on the shoulders of immigrants. These immigrants are stereotyped as being comic and violent. Because Zidane is the primary target of this distancing process and he is of Algerian heritage, we see a public acceptance of the fallacy that Algerians are violent yet funny characters that play no useful role in building French national identity.

One further note is that the real danger of the representations presented in fan videos and games is their widespread diffusion. In about 2 weeks, the single, “Coup de Boule,” sold over 60,000 copies.  Italian, Spanish, and Japanese versions of the song were also produced and rights to them were sold in more than 20 countries. Additionally, over 115,000 copies of the cell-phone ring tone were sold. Anecdotally, the song has appeared on weblogs all over the world. With such a wide reach, and with the incredible television audience that watched the World Cup final itself, these representations have currency around the globe.[78]

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


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Bob Walter


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