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If you pay the slightest bit attention to the world of sports, then you know that the 2006 World Cup has come to a glorious end, with Italy taking the prize from France in an exciting match that went into overtime and ultimately was decided by penalty kicks.

I’ve enjoyed blogging on this great event, exploring the intersection of faith, prayer, and sports fanaticism. Passion and holy beseeching are hardly more potent than in a stadium where so many fans and players try to push their team to victory through prayer. Emotions run high on the field, and I’ve seen plenty of players call on a higher power to give them strength, patience, and the ability to turn the other cheek and stay the course of the game during fierce match-ups.

So why, then, did the king of the 2006 World Cup–France’s team captain Zinedine Zidane–disgrace himself at the very end of the final match, in the last match of his soccer career, by head-butting Italy’s Marco Materazzi when there was about five minutes left in overtime? It was a move that got him a red card and kicked out of the game.

Let me paint the scene. Zinedine Zidane, the man who led France to World Cup victory in 1998, came out of retirement for one last chance at World Cup glory. And when France stumbled in the opening rounds, nearly getting knocked out, Zidane rallied his team, coaxing better play and leading his team right to the finals. He was the heart of France’s team, and came to eclipse all other players in the Cup, including Brazil’s brilliant Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.

I wanted Germany (let’s face it, U.S. didn’t have a chance!), but when Germany lost to Italy, my loyalties (along with millions of other fans, I suspect) switched to France–and to Zinedine Zidane. He had the passion, class, leadership, and the faith to carry France through. So why, oh why, did Zidane disgrace himself by head-butting Materazzi?

It wasn’t that they clashed on the field during play and Zidane took it too far. Play had stopped and Zidane and Materazzi were walking away, exchanging words when the incident occurred. Zidane’s agent, Alain Migliaccio, said that Zidane told him Materazzi said something “very serious” to Zidane to provoke the violent reaction.

Rumor has it in France that Materazzi insulted Zidane’s mother. Materazzi wouldn’t comment after the game was over, prompting others to say he was guilty of some serious insult. But Materazzi’s father said his son shouldn’t be made the black sheep when it was Zidane who crossed the line. So what does it take to make a player lose his cool, and possibly, faith?

Whatever happened–and I sure would like to know real story–it sure is sad to see such a great player go out in such a bad, bad way. Kicked out, lost the World Cup championship, never going to play soccer again. That’s an awfully big price to pay for not turning the other cheek.

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