‘I’d rather die’ than apologize, Zidane says

Posted Tuesday, March 02, 2010 by nbcnews.com

Retired star says what Materazzi's insults in 2006 Cup final weren't 'normal'

‘I’d rather die’ than apologize, Zidane saysMADRID - Former Real Madrid and France footballing star Zinedine Zidane says he regrets having headbutted Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final but he'd rather die than apologize to the Italian defender.

In an interview with leading Spanish daily El Pais published Monday, Zidane recalled the infamous incident with a sense of shame, but he felt none toward Materazzi.

"I apologize to football, to the fans, to the team... After the game, I went into the dressing room and told them, 'Forgive me. This doesn't change anything. But sorry everyone'," he said.

"But to him I can't. Never, never...it would be to dishonor me...I'd rather die," he added.

The match was Zidane's last after a sparkling career in which he became one of the game's most respected players.

But in the 20th minute of extra time of the grueling game, Materazzi insulted Zidane who responded by headbutting the Italian defender violently in the chest. He consequently got sent off and from the sideline saw France lose the match.

"Of course I reproach myself," Zidane told El Pais. "But, if I say 'sorry', I would also be admitting that what he did was normal. And for me it was not normal.

"Things happen on the pitch. It's happened to me many times. But I could not stand it that time. Because...it's not an excuse. But my mother was sick. She was in hospital. This people didn't know.

"But it was a bad moment. More than once they had insulted my mother and I never responded. But in that moment...it happened.

"If it was Kaka, an ordinary guy, a good guy, of course I would have apologized. But to this one!" he said. "If I ask forgiveness of him, I lack respect for myself and for all those I love with all my heart."

Materazzi recently told Italy's La Repubblica paper he was still waiting for Zidane to apologize and that he was still so angry over the incident that he won't even watch this year's tournament in South Africa.

Zidane won two Serie A titles with Italy's Juventus and two La Liga titles and a Champions League with Real Madrid as well as the 1998 World Cup. He was voted FIFA World Player of the Year three times.

Now 37, he acts as an informal adviser to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.

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