Zidane to face Fifa over World Cup headbutt

Former France captain Zinedine Zidane will appear before Fifa’s disciplinary committee in Zurich on Thursday to give his account of the incident in which he headbutted an opponent in the World Cup final.

The 34-year-old was sent off in the closing stages of the final match of his illustrious career after butting his head into the chest of Italian defender Marco Materazzi.

Zidane, a three-time Fifa World Player of the Year, had already announced his decision to retire as a player long before the final took place.

Without their captain, and regular penalty taker who had scored their goal from the spot in the game that eventually ended in a 1-1 draw, France lost the subsequent shoot-out 5-3.

The five-member disciplinary panel will also consider possible punishments against Materazzi, who admitted insulting Zidane in the moments leading up to the headbutt.

Materazzi has, however, denied several media reports, based on the opinions of lip-readers, that he used racist insults to provoke Zidane.

The Inter Milan player, who had his own hearing before the disciplinary committee last Friday, told Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper that it was “one of those insults you hear dozens of times and that often slips out on the pitch”.

Fifa has been tight-lipped about the exact charges being brought against the two players, and about the size of the punishments that could be handed out.

According to the organisation’s disciplinary code, any player who “deliberately assaults someone physically or damages his health will be suspended for at least four matches”, and handed a minimum fine of 5 000 Swiss francs ($3 984).

A lesser assault in which the victim is not considered to have been physically harmed is sanctioned with a ban of at least two matches and the same minimum fine.

Given his personal wealth and his subsequent retirement from the sport, either punishment would be chiefly symbolic in Zidane’s case.

The disciplinary committee could theoretically recommend that Zidane be shorn of his Most Valuable Player award from the World Cup.

A Fifa spokesperson said on Wednesday that such a recommendation was unlikely, pointing out that the award was handed out following a media vote and not by Fifa itself.—Reuters