He was wrong, plain and simple. He flagrantly violated the rules by head butting his adversary. But Zinadine Zidane had an excuse, a reason. Did this make him less wrong? Most of the world seems to think it does.
This incident in the 2006 World Cup soccer match is an example of "enabling"* on a global scale.
French president Chirac praised Zidane after the match, calling the French captain, "a virtuoso, a genius of world football." Then he said, “What is certain is that, for a man like Zidane — a man balanced in all respects — to have this type of reaction, there had to be something.”
Well, Mr. Chirac, there was something that caused North African immigrants to nearly tear France apart a few months ago. How did you react when they head butted and torched the neighborhoods outside Paris? Were they any less guilty of insurrection because "there had to be something”?
The civilized world is built on the premise that even though there may be something that mightily aggravates us, individuals don't take the law into their own hands and commit mayhem when things don't go their way. When they're brought to justice, we hope, if not expect, that they express regret about their actions.
Zidane had a chance to reclaim his iconic status as genius of world football by expressing regret over his head butting an opponent. He could have said that even though he had reason to behave like a berserker, and gave into it, that he wanted to apologize to the men, women, and children who held him up as a role model. He could have reclaimed a part of the mantle of glory that was his to enjoy as he retires from a fabled career.
He did apologize for his behavior to the children of France but said he did not regret his inexcusable behavior because he had a reason for it. How small, how egocentric. How sad for the game, the country, and those children who deserve valiant behavior to accompany valiant effort. The man doesn't know how to use his head on or off the soccer field.
* allowing and encouraging an individual to develop patterns of irresponsible behavior