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The Game of the People

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Last Sunday, July 9th 2006, millions of people the world over were glued to their television sets watching the Finals of World Cup 2006 soccer played out between Italy and France. Both teams were equally poised and attracted their own fans as seen by the sea of colours in the stadium in Germany. Each team scored one goal before half time and the rest of match time was spent battling to break the deadlock. It was one of the hardest played final matches according to one commentator. At the end of conventional time the stalemate was not broken and extra time was given to produce a winner but this did not happen.{{more}} Both teams played superbly to the enjoyment and satisfaction of the spectators. One commentator deemed it the most enjoyable final match. Another felt that he had never seen the Italians play so hard but the hopefuls place their bets on France.

There were high hopes for France, because the highly-rated Zinedine Yazil Zidane popularly known as Zizou had come out of retirement to invigorate the French team to help France win as it had done in 1998. There was no doubt about his ability. He has been hailed the best footballer of his generation. The French President Jacques Chirac called him “a virtuoso, a genius of world cup football”.

At about the 110th minute of the game the world was stunned when the apparently calm Zidane head butted Marco Materazzi, an Italian defendant, in the chest. The Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo handed out the red card and dismissed him from the field. It is, forever, recorded on video tape. The spectators appeared not to have comprehended what transpired immediately and were about to protest. When they understood what had taken place they went into a tortured silence. It was the most foolhardy action of a player at a time in his career when he was riding on the crest of success and for France which had placed its chances on him. His action appeared to seal the fate of the French team but they held on until the end of extra time. The game went into penalty kick shoot-out and the rest is history – Italy won the match.

Thousands of young people were watching the game and their hero. They were taken to the greatest heights of excitement and to the lowest depths of despair all in one match. But the message is that punishment comes swift when you break the rules of the game regardless of your fame. So too, does punishment come when we break the laws of the country even though it might not come so swiftly. No one could deny the genius of the man, but whatever the provocation the retaliatory measure was highly unnecessary. One could only wonder what was going on in the mind of Zidane. Do we in times of frustration risk all that we have for that moment of revenge and then regret it afterwards? Zidane had stamped on an opponent in a 1998 FIFA World Cup match and was punished with a two-game suspension.

Behavior of this kind comes in certain situations where persons are transported by the euphoria of the moment that they throw caution to the wind. This is a common human failing. On the other hand organizations which are microcosms of our society depend on rules and respect for others for their existence and longevity. Forgiveness, too, is part of life.

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