Hey, I don't follow football much. Neither the American version nor the one the rest of the world is obsessed with. But this story, of course, caught my eye.
ROME (Reuters) - Italy defender Marco Materazzi on Monday denied a report that he had called Zinedine Zidane a "dirty terrorist" seconds before the French captain head-butted him in Sunday's World Cup final.
"It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist. I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means," the Italian news agency Ansa quoted Materazzi as saying after the Italian team returned to Rome.
"The whole world saw what happened on live TV," he added.
The Paris-based anti-racism group SOS Racism had earlier quoted well informed sources as saying Materazzi had apparently used the phrase.
"According to several very well informed sources from the world of football, it would seem that the Italian player Marco Materazzi called Zinedine Zidane a 'dirty terrorist'," SOS Racism said in a statement.
Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, was shown a red card after the incident and Italy went on to win on penalties after the match was tied 1-1 following extra time.
According to Wikipedia,
SOS Racisme is a French association whose stated objective is to fight racism.
The association historically had strong links to the French Socialist Party.
So I'll confess, my gut reaction was to suppose that this group was only out to cause trouble, to invent racism where none existed in order to attract attention and sympathy to their cause. But then I saw this.
PARIS (EJP)--- For the first time since the annual Laugh Against Racism event began in Paris three years ago, participants have pulled out following outside pressure.
The troop Lâ€™As de Rire, or The Ace of Laughter, composed of young artists, announced the day before the Monday event that it had withdrawn.
The pullout overshadows an otherwise successful show.
According to Laugh Against Racism organisers, the manager of comedian Jamel Debbouze pressured Lâ€™As de Rire to withdraw from the show.
Anne Roumanoff, a participating comedian told EJP, said she was shocked by this decision.
â€œIâ€™ve never seen this before. Some artists have been pressured out of the show, accusing it of being too Jewish. These people threatened the comedians that there would be consequences if they decided to stay in the show.," she said.
It reflects growing anti-Semitism in France, she said.
5,000 spectators attended this yearâ€™s show, organised by anti-racism organisation SOS Racisme and the French Jewish Student Union.
Say what? So I dug a little deeper. SOS Racisme, it seems, is an organization truly devoted to the daunting task of battling all racism in France, including antisemitism. Quelle surprise!
As for the provocation that made Zidane lose his cool . . . well, we'll probably know more about that in a day or two.