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

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Public Reaction in Algeria?

On the one hand, the press, both Algerian and French, were attempting to use Zidane as a vehicle for the expression of national identity. On the other, popular expressions of Zidane’s performance were not seen entirely in this light if we just look at them on the surface. If we look below the surface, however, the popular reactions in France and around the world are a bit more frightening as they suggest that identity reinforcement took the form of casting Zidane and by extension Algeria as “the other.” Examining the artwork of Ali Dilem from Liberté, it is evident that this Algerian political cartoonist sees the European reaction as a means of distancing from Algeria; as a means of saying, Algeria is too different to be a part of the greater European sphere of influence. As I had no easy access to Algerian public reaction, I have examined Dilem’s cartoons relating to Zidane’s head butt because Dilem is well known for being in tune with popular sentiments (he has even been put in jail and fined for relaying public ideas too critical of the government).

Dilem (see appendix A for the cartoons) drew a series of cartoons in the week following the final World Cup match (July 11-17, 2006) related to Zidane’s performance, and they show quite clearly how Algerians have internalized French conceptions of their own Algerian identity. In a poignant critique of Franco-Algerian relations, Dilem (July 11, 2006) drew a comic depicting French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy with the caption, “Zidane has been sent off,” to which the Sarkozy character adds, “back to Algeria.” Again, there is a play on words, as the French for “sent off” can also mean expelled, in the sense of deportation. We can take from this that because France lost, and many see it as Zidane’s fault, he is no longer welcome as a member of the French nation.

In describing the return of the national police to Kabylia (during the civil war in the 1990s, they retreated from Kabylia due to harsh attacks against them from opposition forces), Dilem (July 12, 2006) drew Zidane, a Kabyle, head butting the police officer back out of Kabylia.

On the subject of Zidane’s retirement, Dilem (July 13, 2006) wrote a caption for an image of Zidane head butting Materazzi saying, “Zidane retires with a head butt.” There is a play on words here as well that means that Zidane’s decision was made on the spur of the moment too. Thus, the decision was made as he head butted Materazzi.

In another cartoon (July 15, 2006) with the caption, “after Zizou’s act…” a Materazzi caricature states, “I’m canceling my Nedjma subscription.” Nedjma is an Algerian cell-phone operator. This implies that those outside of Algeria want nothing to do with the country because the people, represented by Zidane, are too violent.

A final cartoon (July 17, 2006) even has Zidane questioning his Algerian cultural heritage. The caption reads “Bouteflika: ‘Zidane is Algerian’,” and the Zidane character asks, “Did he say that before or after the head butt?”

By looking at this short series of cartoons, we can see that Dilem is recording violence as a Kabyle and more generally Algerian trait, an attempt to separate Algeria and France, and distancing of Algeria from the global community based upon stereotypes attributed through representations of Zidane and his violent reaction at the World Cup. This is all the more insidious, as it has been internalized by an Algerian as part of his own conception of the ways Algerians fit into the larger world.

Exploring elite and popular discourses in France and Algeria relating to Zinédine Zidane’s performance at the 2006 World Cup allows us to see the differences in access and in representation of national identity. The most prevalent discourse in the French press was one of distancing Zidane’s actions from those that are considered acceptable to the French national identity. On the other hand, Algerian discourses tended to focus on Zidane’s Algerian heritage as a means of claiming one of the stars of the tournament as their own in order to build national unity. Popular discourses outside of Algeria were much more focused on racial difference and violence, and to the extent it was possible to explore Algerian popular discourses, these values are beginning to be internalized by Algerians. This points to a serious marginalization of Algeria in the global flow of information around the World Cup, largely because Algeria had no first-hand ability to construct its own identity promoting discourse; it was reliant upon second-hand accounts from the Western press. This is a finding consistent with the history of flow studies in international communication, suggesting that we must continue to point out the imbalance in access to media content as well as the imbalance in ability to produce media content.

Additionally, the focus on profit by Saudi and European satellite broadcasters deprived Algerian media of the possibility of constructing their own indigenous discourses during live broadcasts. FIFA was in this case unresponsive to this type of economic marginalization, and as a result, a media event that has become typically used for the negotiation of national identities did not afford all the countries desiring to participate the ability to do so.

These findings suggest that pointing out such imbalances as the ones described here call for reopening the debate over the spread of an unchecked market on cultural broadcasting. Because events like the World Cup have a clear cultural value in the process of identity negotiation, it is essential that we try to ensure equal participation in these events to avoid further marginalization of countries like Algeria.

Continuing the Study of Algeria in Global Media Flows…

My analysis of Algerian press discourse was limited to French-language newspapers, in large part because of my inability to read Arabic quickly and effectively and a paucity of financial resources to pay for translation,. This reduced my capability to understand Algerian construction of Zidane’s performance by half, as there are as many Arabic-language papers, and they are of similar prominence to their French-language counterparts. However, as Zidane traces his origins to the Kabyle region of Algeria where the French language is more commonly used than is the Arabic language, I felt that this early exploration was well justified in beginning with French language papers. Also, these papers are part of the national press, printed out of Algiers, and thus seek national audiences; as a result, there is often some overlap with the Arabic-language national press, which also is read nationally. Further analyses should take into consideration the Arabic language press though, as it often turns more toward the Arab world than toward Europe.

Another limitation is the fact that the Algerian press is not systematically archived through any aggregating service such as Lexis-Nexis.  I had to rely upon my attention to each daily issue as printed online at the El Watan website, as well as the limited access offered to past issues in proprietary archives that are still under development. As a result, there may be an article or two that slipped under the radar, but my analysis includes all of the coverage that I was able to collect by watching the websites daily during the World Cup and its aftermath as well as sifting through the archives.

In the end and despite these limitations, my analysis here shows that what most of the world saw was a limited folkloric representation of our own, and other, identities. In the Algerian case, not even the Algerians themselves got to see their own representation of the World Cup, and in particular, they were denied their own construction of countryman Zinédine Zidane’s last game of his illustrious career. What does this mean for all of us? It argues for rebalancing the globalization of media in favor of local flows. Many have argued for looking at local flows,[79] and this is a prime case of what happens when local media participants are denied their own representation of events involving their cultural identity. If we look at the almost exclusively Western treatment of Zidane’s actions, we see a concentration on violence, comedy, and “one bad actor.” Thus, by extension, this is a view of Algeria personified through the sports hero.

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


[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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