Thursday, May 11, 2006

Dawn of a Legend

I first learned of Zinadine Zidane when I accidentally flipped over the channels of my tv to a football game. This was in 1998 and the game was the Champion's League finals between Juventus and Real Madrid. Living then in the Philippines, and the country being a predominantly basketball-crazy nation, I can count with my finger the footballers that i knew, and some of them already retired, like Pele, Maradona, Cantona and Ronaldo. As I said earlier, I "accidentally" tuned the tv to that game but I was so smitten by the beutiful move of a Juventus midfielder that i have to watch the game until it was finished. The midfielder was Zidane. They lost the game but from then on football was never the same for me. It's not the boring girl's game as i used to know it before. Ronlado's introduced me to the brute force and magnificence of the game in world cup 1994. Zidane introduced me to its beauty and flair, that football can be played with such grace and smoothness you just can't help but awed. 1998 proved to be the beginning of Zidane's career as he won the World cup that year, voted FIFA World footballer of the year(An award he won three times--1998, 2000 & 2003--with only Ronaldo equalling same feat), and the Euro 2000 two years later. When I moved to football-crazy Singapore in 2001, it was also the time when Zidane became the most expensive fooballer ever when Real Madrid bought him from Juventus for a record of almost Euro70 million (47m pounds). This was the time when he won both the Spanish Primera Liga and the European Champions' League with Ronaldo and Luis Figo as team mates, the Galacticos, as they are dubbed.

Zidane's story has been as easy to identify with as it has been popular. His childhood in the poor quarter of Marseille, his first training shoes with the great Raymond Kopa's name etched onto them, the poster of Michel Platini in Juventus colours on his bedroom wall. And the games, never-ending, in the back lanes and on the stone playing fields of the old port city. He told much later, in that droll way of his: "Give me grass, and studs, and I'll show you beauty. But believe me, when I'm on tarmac, and in trainers, I am much, much better..."

There's no arrogance in that statement. It's simply not a part of Zidane's make-up.

In 2004, Zidane was named to the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living footballers selected by Pele as a part of FIFA's centenary celebrations. In 2004, he was also voted the best European player for the past 50 years in the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll.

Last week Zidane has bid farewell with his last game in a Real Madrid shirt. It's strange feeling having to remind yourself that Zinedine Zidane's talent is not everlasting, and that he will no longer play football beyond this summer. It seems awfully to be thinking that I've just savored his last match, and even odder to be missing him before he has even got to Germany and his World Cup swansong... And I will be one of those who will not miss to see as Zizou work on his wonders' last breaths with France before he hang his boots permanently, as his named will forever be etched in football history as one of the greatest, if not the best, of his generation.

Below is a clip of some of Zidane's best moments in his magnificent career.