Football fans have always gazed at monuments dedicated to strikers as well as to goalkeepers, mainly outside the stadium of the team that mostly marked their career. Probably, they have never seen a statue representing a foul or a goal celebration, though. They could not imagine that a bronze sculpture depicting the famous Zidane-Materazzi incident at the 2006 World Cup final now stands in central Piazza del Duomo in Pietrasanta, a 25,000-inhabitant town on the coast in northern Tuscany.
“Coup de Tête”, a 5-metre-high statue moulded by Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed, is undoubtedly the most iconic work of “Italia – Francia”, a contemporary art exhibit focused on the cultural links and the odi-et-amo relationships between the two Mediterranean countries which will be hosted in Pietrasanta until mid-September. Then, the statue will be definitively placed in Qatar. On the opening day, ex Azzurri centre-back and 2006 world champion Marco Materazzi – who also scored a goal in the final – showed up in Pietrasanta to admire his bronze version.
“Adel is a genius”, Materazzi maintains whilst presenting the huge statue. “This is an ode to the infamous defeat by France, but it also reminds Italians a fantastic triumph. This monument connects two countries who are divided by a long-standing football rivalry. I already saw it in New York and in Paris, it is worthy to be exhibited also in Italy.”
Abdessemed explains the genesis of his work, photographed by several tourists. “It all began on a famous day in Berlin on nightfall”, he says. “Zinedine Zidane headbutting Materazzi epitomises a gesture of freedom by an absolutely simple man. This work is a way to materialise the shock Frenchmen experienced in front on TV.”
Azzurri team doctor Enrico Castellacci recalls the highly-celebrated incident. “I was the first person to go onto the pitch to aid Marco. None of us had realised what really happened. Then, Marco asked me whether Zidane had been sent off. I replied he hand’t, so Marco told me ‘Ok, I’ll fall down again’ “, laughs Castellacci.
“This splendid statue is contradictory. It embodies the debacle of an entire country as well as of one of the greatest footballers ever, and I still have goosebumps in reminding him abandoning the pitch and touching lightly the World Cup. On the other side, it is a monument to the triumph of a national team accompanied with controversies regarding the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal. It was also the personal triumph of Marco, a genuine gentleman who had been lionised by Inter Milan fans and outraged by rival supporters until then. Thanks to the World Cup, Italians discovered a gentle giant, a warrior with a sensitive heart.”
Materazzi wrote even a book about the incident, which can be considered a key event in his career. Seemingly, not in that match. “I don’t think it was that crucial for us to win. When Zidane was sent off there was still time to score a goal for each side. Why did he do what he did? I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. He did it because of strain, instinct, even fear towards his opponents. We were not friends before the incident, we are not friends now either.” Heavy words. Heavy, like a 5-metre-high bronze statue.