Monday, July 10, 2006

The Bonk Seen Round the World

Soccer has been a forum for global politics for a long time, and the World Cup provides a stage in which digital evidence enters the game. The much-forwarded clip of Zin├ędine Zidane head-butting an Italian opponent on YouTube has already generated remixes critical of the French star player or mocking the exchange. According to Zidane's teammates, the catalyst for the incident may have been a racial slur. Many thought that the multicultural team's excellent performance had put ugly ethnic politics behind them. At least anti-immigrant National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was widely criticized for commenting that the team wasn't "French" enough. Le Pen should have known better, in a country where you could get humorous pre-recorded phone messages about the progress of the French team for your answering machine.

Of course, the bizarre, vindictive move by the usually classy son of Algerian immigrants wouldn't have been seen at all if it weren't for the refs bending the official rules about using instant replay footage. Zidane's own slickly produced webpage carries the final score of the game but no public apology or explanation of the red card incident as yet. If you are a Francophile, you can watch a long highlights real of Materazzi fouling people on YouTube.

Many of us who were frustrated by obstacles to seeing live streaming video of the game via the Internet -- a seeming n0-brainer as a desirable commodity -- had to give in and find venues for large-screen television coverage. I watched at both my local Goethe-Institut and an empanada joint in the Valley. FIFA's website, with the exception of the bizarre "Fan of the Match" page didn't merit many repeat visits. It was dominated by corporate sponsors and the "interactive" content wasn't very engaging. As the New York Times declared today, "Old Media, Not New, is World Cup Winner."

Update: Water Cooler Games has some great material about Zidane news games including this one from an Italian newspaper. This site also made me laugh, even though I, of course, was rooting for the French.

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