FIFA World Cup Great Moments: The Zidane Headbutt

A few choice words from Materazzi towards Zidane's family proved costly for the Italian, as Zidane headbutted him in the middle of the pitch.

Marco Materazzi falls after Zidane's headbutt.

French midfield maestro Zinedine Zidane was, on the face of it, a cool and calm persona. But rage simmers within all. And during the 2006 World Cup final, the Real Madrid icon lost his head.

Rather, he used it for the wrong reason.

France were playing Italy in Berlin’s historic Olympic Stadium. The score was 1-1, and the match went into extra time. In the 110th minute, Italy’s Marco Materazzi triggered Zidane with a comment mentioning his sister.

Players are expected to not react to trolling by opponents. But then every man has a limit, especially if a female family member is mentioned.

Zidane heard Materazzi’s remark, walked back towards him and slammed his head into the Italian’s ribcage.

It was an automatic red card. France lost on penalties and Zidane was criticized for letting his team down. At the same time, some praised him for standing up for his family.

Materazzi’s exact words to Zidane remained a matter of speculation and gossip for a long time. He revealed them a few years ago.

“There had been a bit of contact between us in the area [field],” Materazzi said. “He had scored France's goal in the first half and our coach (Marcello Lippi) told me to mark him. After that first brush between us, I apologised but he reacted badly.

“After the third clash, I frowned and he retorted: 'I'll give you my shirt later'. I replied that I'd rather have his sister than his shirt.”

While the words were crass, Materazzi said such exchanges were fairly common in certain circumstances, and he did not expect Zidane to react the way he did.

“My words were stupid but did not deserve that reaction,” he said. “In any neighborhood of Rome, Naples, Turin, Milan, Paris, I hear much more serious things.”

The incident became so iconic that there is a statue of the headbutt in Qatar. It will be on display during the World Cup.