Greatness and Folly

In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest world cup finals of the modern era, Italy won its fourth World Cup title, by 5-3 in a penalty-kick shootout, after the score remained 1-1 through overtime. Unfortunate at the same time will be the fact that the great final will be remembered more for Zinedine Zidane’s head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest after the two exchanged words in the dying stages of the match. With Zidane shown the red card, France never looked like they were in it to win soccer’s most coveted trophy. The Azzuris on the other hand looked the more determined team pulling out what will be remembered as a classic win in a match that had everything in it from great soccer to the sheer madness of a great genius whose astonishing unsporting act saw what could have otherwise been a glorious coronation of the career of the French captain Zidane only to become a shameful departure. However, to be fair to Zidane, this one single act of folly should not in anyway take away his rightful claim as one of the great footballers of the modern era. At the end, Zidane will no doubt carry with him the stamp of greatness as also the stain of his folly, described by some as the most bizarre single act of self-destruction ever seen in sports. 

As far as the Italy-France match goes, Zidane being sent off during extra-time was the turning point of the game especially with the inevitability of a penalty shootout looming. That Zidane had successfully converted two back to back spot kicks, one against Portugal in the Semi-Finals and the other at the early stages of the finals, made it crucial for the French team to have the proven Zidane in the scheme of things at the decisive final hurdle. France were not only one man down but the absence of their leader gave the Italians the biggest advantage of the night and from there on, the Azurris carried the self belief that they could win. All that they needed to do was to remain calm and focused for the vital finish. At the end, self-belief and discipline made the difference between winning and losing. 

The world cup finals played at the imposing stadium in Berlin before a world wide audience dubbed as the biggest sporting event on earth should also be remembered as a lesson in life for millions of viewers around the world. The difference between winning and losing or success and failure is all about the choices that are made in life. An act such as the moment of recklessness on the part of Zidane might have cost his team its second World Cup title in eight years. This is a valuable lesson about life itself because unlike even movies, a sporting event or a soccer match represents real life drama. There is no written script to follow neither is there any retakes. In sports as in real life one cannot turn back the clock and therefore every action, whether of a society or individual counts and at the end makes a difference to winning or losing.