Un homme avant tout’: Zinedine Zidane and the Sociology of a Head-Butt Sean Morrissey

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This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in the journal SOCCER AND SOCIETY [2008 copyright Taylor & Francis]; SOCCER AND SOCIETY is available online at: http://journalsonline.tandf.co.uk/

Un homme avant tout’: Zinedine Zidane and the Sociology of a Head-Butt

Sean Morrissey, University of Aberdeen

In the hundred and eleventh minute of the 2006 World Cup final, Zinedine Zidane was ejected from the field of play for head-butting Marco Materazzi in the chest. What provoked this violent reaction was a challenge to his masculinity in the form of a slur on the chastity of his mother and sister. This paper tells the story of the head-butt and, in so doing, shall demonstrate that only a sociological account is capable of offering a truly sophisticated understanding of the incident. It thus draws on the work of Elias and Bourdieu and argues that Materazzi’s insults acted as a catalyst, causing divergent aspects of Zidane’s fractured habitus to clash, and the dispositions of the Franco-Kabyle habitus to override the ‘civilised’ habitus demanded by the illusio generated by the professional football field, and erupt onto the pitch in the form of the now notorious head-butt.

There is little doubt that in the hundred and eleventh minute of the FIFA World Cup final between France and Italy on the 9th July 2006 in Berlin’s Olympiastadion, over a billion people worldwide witnessed what is fast becoming one of the most notorious and iconic moments in the history of international sport. Minutes away from the end of his final match before retirement, French captain Zinedine Zidane was sent-off for violently head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest after words were exchanged between the players. France subsequently lost the match by a solitary goal in a penalty shoot-out.
To some there may have seemed little out of the ordinary in an act of violence occurring on a football field. Indeed, earlier in the same tournament, Italian midfielder Daniele De Rossi was shown a red card for striking Brian McBride of the USA in the face with his elbow. That incident had been all but forgotten by the time Italy and France took to the field three weeks later. The incident involving Zidane and Materazzi on the other hand will be immortalised both in the annals of football folklore and, more generally, as a potent global symbol. Less than a month on, ‘Head-butt’, a song written by two French brothers parodying the event, topped the French music charts having sold around seventeen thousand copies in the first two days of its release. That same week, a Chinese entrepreneur was inviting bids of $125,400 for the rights to a silhouetted image of the head-butt.
This article will begin by offering a brief synopsis of Zidane’s biography and the reaction to his ejection from the field of play on the 9th June, in the media and elsewhere. Having done so, it shall point out the flaws latent in Lebenswelt discussions of the incident, including the failure to acknowledge that for Zidane what provoked his violent reaction was a challenge to his masculinity in the form of a slur on the chastity of his mother and sister, and thus the necessity of a sociological account of the head-butt. There is a well-established body of literature which deals football and (hegemonic) masculinity. However, these ‘conventional’ explanations are infelicitous here inasmuch as the work of John Swain and others is theoretically underdeveloped and fails to account for the differences between football played in one context (the school playground) and other contexts (for example the professional football field). Instead it shall draw on the work of Elias and Bourdieu and argue that Materazzi’s insults acted as a catalyst, causing the divergent aspects of Zidane’s fractured habitus to clash, and the dispositions of the Franco-Kabyle habitus to override the ‘civilised’ professional-footballer habitus and erupt onto the field of play in the form of the now notorious head-butt.

Zidane the man
Zinidine Zidane is indubitably one of the most adroit and elegant footballers to have played the game. Described by Pelé as ‘a magician’, he is one of a rare breed of player who embodies all of the characteristics of football heroism. On the one hand, according to Santini (France’s manager in 2004) he ‘never shies from responsibility either on the field or off it… he is such a good influence on the game and such a captain. He is never afraid’1. On the other, his craft and guile as a football virtuoso are manifest in his numerous successes at both club and national level, and the abundance of personal awards bestowed upon him in his career.
At Juventus, he helped the team win two Serie A titles and reach two Champion’s League finals. In 2001 he moved to Madrid for a transfer fee of €66 million, a world-record that remains unbroken. In the 2001-2002 Champion’s League final, he scored what is widely considered to be the best goal in the tournament’s history and the winning goal on the night. On a personal level, Zidane was elected FIFA World Player of the Year a record three times (1998, 2000, 2003) and was named European footballer of the Year in 1998. At the 2006 World Cup he was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament and became one of only four players to score in two different World Cup finals with a goal that made him the joint top goal-scorer in World Cup final matches.
Zidane was a member of the ‘golden generation’ of French football. He was an integral member of the national team which won the World Cup in 1998, scoring two goals in the final match against Brazil. Two years later he inspired France to victory in the UEFA European Championships, scoring in both the quarter and semi-finals of the tournament as France became the first team in thirty-four years to simultaneously hold the World Cup and European Championship. Following the success of the French national team dubbed ‘Black Blanc Beur’ (black, white, Arab) at the 1998 World Cup, Zidane was hailed as its hero par excellence and, moreover, as the new icon of multicultural France. When ‘Zidane-mania’ reached its height in France, posters, graffiti and rap songs declared ‘Zizou Président’ and the Algerian flag was seen, throughout France, flying alongside the French tricolour. At the Champs-Elysees celebration, his image was even projected onto the façade of the Arc de Triomphe.

The story of the head-butt
In his career, therefore, Zidane has undergone a kind of global apotheosis which helps explain the tumultuous reaction to his dramatic fall from grace during the finale of his career, the 2006 World Cup. Immediately after the match was ended a media storm ensued, the primary concern of which was to uncover exactly what Materazzi had said to provoke such a violent reaction. With few exceptions, the consensus among the world’s media was that Zidane must have been the subject of racial or religious abuse serious enough to warrant this flagrant end to a glittering career.
In the UK, for example, the Times even enlisted the help of a lip-reader who concluded that Materazzi had called Zidane the ‘son of a terrorist whore’ before telling him to ‘fuck off”, while the Daily Mail’s ‘expert’ claimed that Materazzi had called Zidane the equivalent of a ‘nigger’2. The testimonies of lip readers appeared to be borne out by comments from Zidane’s brother who had reportedly ‘heard that the insult involved terrorism’. One French anti-racism association even demanded the launch of an official FIFA inquiry into the matter, citing ‘several very well informed sources’ which alleged that Zidane’s actions were provoked by a racist remark made by Materazzi.
That a racial or religious slur was proposed, more or less universally, as the catalyst for Zidane’s violent reaction came as little surprise to many, owing to the historical intertwining of football and racial politics in France. The French team, which is a model of ethnic, racial and religious diversity, has a long history of confrontation with Jean-Marie Le Pen – leader of the right-wing Front National party. The team who won the 1998 World Cup, for example, were castigated by Le Pen for not looking French enough. The early conjectures that the now infamous head-butt had been provoked by a racial or religious taunt, appeared, moreover, to be supported by a considerable body of circumstantial evidence. There is no other player on the French national team for whom the issues of race and ethnicity are more poignant, it would seem, than Zinedine Zidane. While at AS Cannes he regularly displayed an eagerness to attack fellow players and spectators who insulted his race or family. His first weeks there were spent mainly on cleaning duty after punching an opponent who had mocked his origins. Years later, in the group stages of the 1998 World Cup, Zidane was sent off for stamping on Saudi captain Fuad Amin. It was alleged that Amin had abused him racially.
Zidane also had to defend his ethnicity amid accusations made by a Front National politician that his father had been a harki3. In a statement, following the victory at the 1998 World Cup, the party revealed that they only deemed Zidane’s contribution to the team ‘acceptable’ (vis-à-vis the other players of African descent) because he was a ‘son of French Algeria’, implying he was the son of a harki. The statement resulted in a campaign of death threats and abuse which reached their crescendo in the notorious friendly match between France and Algeria in the Stade de France in 2001, which was abandoned in the second half following a pitch invasion that threatened to spiral into a riot. Throughout, Zidane was booed and verbally abused by young Maghrebis from the Parisian HLMs.
If the French team of the Golden Generation were an example of cultural diversity, the Italians of the 2006 World Cup, solely containing players of European descent, were its polar opposite. Italian football has, moreover, been marred by a number of well documented incidents of racism recently. One of the highest profile incidents occurred in November 2005 when Messina defender Marco Zoro picked up the ball and walked off the pitch after sustaining racial abuse from the fans of Inter Milan. He was eventually persuaded to continue by a number of the other players. Zoro later revealed that sympathy was not, however, universally forthcoming from the Inter players, one of whom had made his feelings known by shouting ‘stop that, Zoro, you’re just trying to make a name for yourself’. That player was Marco Materazzi.
All of the speculation was finally arrested when, on the evening of the 12th of July, Zidane gave a short interview for Canal Plus in which he explained the words that had provoked his violent ‘gesture’ against Materazzi. His revelation, to the surprise of the world, concerned neither race, religion nor politics. Zidane instead described the incident in the following terms:
He is pulling my shirt, and I’m telling him to stop pulling it, and that if he wants it, I’ll give it to him after the game… Then he starts saying very hard words, which he repeats several times, words that can hurt more than acts… It’s much too serious to say it. These are very personal things, about my mum, my sister, and these are very hard words. You hear it once, you try to move away. You hear it twice and the third time you just snap. I am a man before anything else, and… I’d rather have been punched in the face than hear these things and I reacted
Zidane’s version of events was eventually corroborated by Materazzi who later told the press:
Yes, I was tugging his shirt, but when he said to me scornfully “If you want my shirt so much I'll give it to you afterwards,” is that not a provocation? I answered that I'd prefer his sister, it's true’4.
To Zidane’s many followers in France and throughout the world, who had believed that the shameful head-butt with which their hero’s career had ended had been provoked by an odious and deplorable insult, Materazzi’s seemingly innocuous taunt failed to live up to expectations. Once the initial conjecture, that a heinous racial or religious insult had provoked Zidane’s reaction was disproved by his public revelation, attention shifted to Zidane’s fiery character and temper, as the media attempted to uncover the ‘real reason’ for the violent head-butt. Columnists recalled a host of violent incidents that have littered his career including a red card and five-match ban for head-butting Jochen Kientz of FC Hamburg in 2001 and his dismissal for slapping Pablo Alfaro of Sevilla in 2004. While the discussion of the part played by the media in the affair is by no means a central focus of this article, it is interesting to reflect further upon the media speculation surrounding the event. Doing so sets the scene for the introduction of a sociological perspective to the discussion by outlining the weaknesses latent within the media’s approach to the incident.
In the first instance, the perceived cause of the incident was an abhorrent racial or religious insult so ornery that Zidane could not help but react to it. Thus (unknowingly of course) the media applied what Hughson and Inglis call an ‘externalist perspective’ to the discussion of the head-butt5. The implication was that Zidane’s actions were caused and/or determined by some extrinsic compelling force. However the media’s second and subsequent verdict, that Zidane’s reaction was ‘really’ caused by his (subjective) temper, is an example of an ‘internalist perspective’. The implication of this second wave of media attention was that the incident arose as the result of an intrinsic personal character defect. However, both purely internalist and externalist perspectives are deficient inasmuch as the former overemphasises the influence of objective factors and downplays the influence of subjective factors, while the converse is true of the latter. Any analysis of complex social phenomena instead requires a theoretical framework that is able to account for both the internal and the external aspects thereof. Such approaches are the sole preserve of sociology rather than journalism, no matter how well-informed.
Having established that a sociological account of Zidane’s dismissal from the 2006 World Cup final is required to overcome the failings of the media’s accounts of the incident, attention can be turned to the question of the particular form that the sociology of the head-butt should take. What is clear is that exercising Verstehen in relation to the incident shows that for Zidane its cause was neither racism nor his fiery temper. Rather, an insult to his masculinity constituted by the ‘serious’ and ‘very hard words’ which Materazzi uttered against his mother and sister provoked the head-butt. A conventional sociological approach to the head-butt might, therefore, seek to draw on the kinds of British studies that posit football – often in the context of the school playground – as a marker and maker of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ among young men6. The concept of hegemonic masculinity is also able to synthesis the internalist (subjective) and externalist (objective) perspectives drawn on by media inasmuch as, according to Connell, hegemonic masculinity is the accepted strategy, of (subjectively) ‘doing’ one’s masculinity, that claims the highest status, influence or authority over other forms in a particular context precisely because it corresponds to (objective) cultural ideals and institutional power7.

Conventional sociological approaches: football and hegemonic masculinity
Gilbert and Gilbert argue that ‘for many boys the demonstration of sporting prowess (particularly through football) is seen as the most acceptable and desirable way of being male’8, while Francis ranks football alongside ‘objectification of, and sexual activity with, females and physical strength’9. Those who do not participate in the hegemonic practise of football, she argues, are outcast and ridiculed as ‘geeks’. Renold suggests that amongst primary school boys in the UK, ‘(seemingly) coherent hegemonic heterosexual masculinity’ is commonly defined through performing competently at football, fighting, and an overt compulsory heterosexuality10. In a study of masculinities and sexualities in schools, one of Epstein’s research respondents suggested that ‘people who wanted to be in the school play, rather than play football would get a homophobic lashing’11.
One of the best examples of this type of study is Swain’s article entitled ‘The money’s good, the fame’s good, the girls are good’12. In it, he describes football as an activity which is sated with ‘masculinising associations’. For example, Swain argues that:
The game personifies the acme of masculinity and communicates ideals of fitness, strength, competition, power and domination; and through playing the game… the boys were… practising to be a man13.
For many boys, the image of the ideal, quintessential (heterosexual) man resides in the professional game of football, with all its connotations of athleticism, muscularity, power and domination. Moreover, Swain suggests that football not only encourages corporeal strength and aggression but is often entwined with physical violence, evidenced in his discussion of the young boy whose picking-up of the ball evokes the castigation and the violence of the other ‘popular’ boys.
This body of literature appears, at first glance, to shed a considerable amount of light on the manner in which Zidane’s glittering career ended in the 2006 World Cup final, suggesting, that there is a clear connection between football, violence and hegemonic masculinity and that by playing football young men somehow learn to perform hegemonic masculinity; demonstrating skill and competence, and aggression, domination and violence. However, there are two serious criticisms that can be levelled at the work mentioned above.

Criticisms of conventional approaches
The first concerns a discursive thread which runs through the work of Swain and others, namely that the corporeal practise of playing football – as distinct from the ancillary practises associated with football (speech, exclusion etc.) – is key to the formation of a gendered identity for many young boys:
‘…the body itself (and how we come to know our bodies) plays a fundamental role in the formation of gender identity, and physical activity obviously plays a big part in this14.
The question that remains unanswered is how exactly young boys’ playing of the game leads to the construction, negotiation and performing of a masculine identity? Swain writes that ‘in playing the game, the boys were practising to become men’ yet fails to adequately qualify the connections between playing the game of football on the pitch and the performance of hegemonic masculinity off of it15. In the absence of any firmly developed theory with which to account for the continuation of the performance of the forms of masculinity associated with football in non-football contexts, and vice-versa, his claims are open to the serious criticism that his work is underdeveloped.
A second criticism that can be levelled at the work of Swain and others concerns the uncritical association that they make between football and hegemonic masculinity. Notable is Swain’s recognition of the use of violence to ‘back-up’ and enforce the inculcation of (heterosexual) hegemonic form of masculine performativities in playground games of football. What none attempt to do is query this axiomatic association. In the context of Elias and Dunning’s work on the history of the football, which the paper shall consider in due course, this criticism is particularly pertinent.
The sociology of the head-butt, the theoretical approach developed in this paper, must therefore answer the criticisms levelled at conventional approaches in order to demonstrate its efficaciousness in offering a more sophisticated and appropriate understanding of Zidane’s violent reaction to Materazzi in the World Cup final. This paper will argue that a consideration of the kinds of theories advocated by Norbert Elias and Pierre Bourdieu, and the examples to which they were applied, is capable of providing such an approach.

The field of professional football
Elias and Bourdieu would argue that the answer to the question of how exactly young boys playing a game sated with masculinising associations and practises leads to the formation of a durable gender identity rests in the concept of the habitus16. The habitus is a system of dispositions, constituted by durable, learned schemes of perception, thought and action which individuals learns through socialisation and their daily encounters with objective social structures – called ‘fields’ in the work of Bourdieu – which place requirements and incumbencies upon its members that are subsequently ‘absorbed’ into the habitus. ‘Fields’ are social arenas, comprised of systems of social positions and power relations, in which individuals engage in struggles over the definition and ownership of certain forms of ‘capital’. Fields are governed by rules (doxa) which govern the kinds of practises that are acceptable within the field. Individuals endowed with high levels of the types of capital which are valued most highly, according the doxa of the field, tend to occupy privileged positions within that field.
Habitus formation involves, to an extent, the ‘absorption’ of the doxa (rules) which govern particular fields – their requirements and incumbencies – and the internalisation of what Bourdieu calls the ‘illusio’ produced by the field17. Illusio has two parts called ‘inclination’ and ‘ability’. ‘Inclination’ refers to the tacit adherence, of individual members of a field, to the stakes and the rules of the field. ‘Inclination’ is personified in the example of the young boxer who believes that fame and success in the sport are worth investing a great deal of time and effort to achieve, notwithstanding the high risk of failure and the possibility of sustaining bodily injury in the ring. ‘Ability’ refers to the ‘feel for the game’ that allows competent individuals to distinguish between interesting and important things (such as key problems and debates in the scientific field) and the things which are insignificant to the field and thus unworthy of interest (such as, one presumes, the importance of Sartrean existentialism to the field of amateur darts). Individuals whose habituses are congruous with the doxa and illusio of a particular field stand the best chance of success in that field (e.g. the children of middle-class parents in the field of statutory education). Individuals (e.g. the children of working-class parents) whose habituses are incongruous with the field are far less likely to attain success within that field18.
The habitus, according to Bourdieu (a lá Merleau-Ponty19), is embedded at the deepest levels of the body. Bourdieu uses the term ‘bodily hexis’ to describe these specific corporeal aspects of the habitus and denote the host of socially inculcated ways an individual moves, carries, and positions his or her body in the lived world. Body hexis has been described as ‘the performative aspect of habitus20. By applying the notions of habitus and body hexis to the theoretically deficient work of Swain and others, it is possible to ground the earlier discussion of football as identity formation in a persuasive theory of the body.
A Bourdieusian account would therefore stress that the doxa of the game of football ‘structures’ the footballer’s body by demanding particular corporeal performances; ‘practiced combinations of force and skill’ to use Swain’s words21. Through repeated engagement with a game (football) whose doxa dispose the body to, for example, ‘project’ itself into space, individuals’ bodies become ‘accustomed’ to the performance of gestures and postures which engender ‘projection’ and thus the formation of a body hexis22. These movements and gestures therefore become ‘second nature’ to the body and are manifest, applied creatively, in other non-football fields and contexts. Moreover, habitus and hexis actually beget patterns of taste and inasmuch as, Bourdieu argues, individuals actively seek out fields and practises that are concordant with their habituses23. This is how, exactly, young boys’ playing of a game ‘sated with masculinising associations and practises’ leads to the construction, maintenance and performance of a gendered identity.
It would seem therefore that games like football can operate as puissant agents of habitus formation and alteration. It follows, logically, that if one wanted to deliberately shape boys’ habituses – and thus their attitudes and identities – one could select particular games for them to play. This is exactly what happened to football in the 19th Century. Consideration of this football-engineered habitus will also allow the paper to critically challenge the perfunctory association between football and violent hegemonic masculinities mentioned earlier.

The ‘civilised’ IFAB-approved habitus
In collaboration with Eric Dunning, Elias explained how emergent behavioural practises in sports can be explained with reference to the ‘civilising process’. The civilising process refers to the general trend towards greater degrees of bodily and emotional self-control in Western societies between the middle Ages and the twentieth century. Elias used the notion of the habitus to explain the subtler ways in which individuals’ body practises were regulated24, through ‘thresholds of repugnance’ and ‘disgust functions’, which became embedded in their habitus. Corporeal revulsion was thus experienced when ‘civilised’ individuals were confronted with violence and other breaches of corporeal taboos.
Sports generally underwent an intensive civilising process during the 19th Century which witnessed the transition from free and open forms of play to much more formalised and demarcated forms of play in which violence was repressed and strictly regulated. For example the popular ‘folk football’ played in Britain up to the late 19th Century was horrifically violent, often resulting in injuries and even deaths25. However, during the latter half of the nineteenth century, the ‘civilised’ standards of behaviour of the upper-classes increasingly extended to sports in the form of extensive rules and codes of conduct such as the Marquis of Queensbury rules in boxing and the ‘Cambridge rules’ in football. According to Dunning, English public schools played a key role in the civilising of football, a process that had its roots in the rising games ethics of English public schools from the mid 19th Century whereby headmasters and teachers deliberately encouraged a form of bourgeois-masculine habitus among their pupils26. Football thus became governed according to ‘Gentlemanly’ codes of sportsmanship, which included playing the game simply for the joy of taking part, and the exercise of self-control over one's feelings; win, lose or draw27. Thus the regulated and codified form of football, which penalised violent and ‘ungentlemanly’ conduct, came to be welcomed by the bourgeoisie and subsequently, as the working classes became increasingly ‘embourgeoisified’, by most players in Western societies28. The advent of professionalism in the 20th Century advanced, significantly, the process of formalising and demarcating the rules of football. The continuation of the trend away from violence and towards sportsmanship is evidenced in the recent addition, of ‘violent conduct’, ‘serious foul play’, the use of ‘offensive, insulting or abusive language’ and ‘tackles from behind’ to those offences punishable by red card.
While in the playground, according to Swain, the exalted form of masculinity is ‘policed by its own self-regulation’ (the doxa of the game, in this particular context, is such that a particular tough and often violent form of masculine performance is rewarded because the boys themselves, rather school teachers or any one else, regulate the games played in the playground), the doxa of the field of professional football are, in the 21st Century, regulated by the IFAB29. Professional matches are regulated by a referee, two referee’s assistants and a fourth official all of whom are charged with enforcing the rules of the game. Moreover, the use of TV images (and even players autobiographies, if one recalls Roy Keane’s 5 match ban and £150,000 fine for admitting, in his book, that a foul on Alf-Inge Haaland was premeditated and intended to cause injury) to punish players, managers, coaching staff and club-owners, attests the complex forms of Foucauldian discipline and surveillance that regulate the professional game and promote ‘fair play’30. This ethos, formally instituted in the rules of the professional game, is, as in the public school context, intended to generate civilised habituses in professional footballers. The IFAB-approved habitus demands bodies which are tough, not violent and footballers who ‘let their feet do the talking’, maintain complete control at all times and skilfully project their bodies into space without projecting their heads into the chests of other players. The very fact that Zidane did give in to a violent impulse that night in Berlin – in an act that was almost wholly incongruous with the habitus-generating doxa and illusio of the field of professional football – is suggestive of what Bourdieu calls a ‘fractured habitus’.
The archetypical fractured habitus, according to Bourdieu, was that of the Kabyle of north-west Algeria after their colonisation by the French31. Following colonisation, he argued, the subsequent and ‘brutal’ imposition of the modern capitalist economy presupposed a systematic transformation of the (pre-capitalist) Kabyle habitus32. However, there existed considerable dissimilitude between the Kabyle habitus and the structures of the modern capitalist economy. The discordance between the cultural logics of the two ‘clashing’ worlds gave rise to a kind of cultural dualism or hybridity, one in which the ‘dispositions and ideologies corresponding to different economic structures, still present or already swept away, coexist… in the same individuals’33. The resulting fractured habitus is one that contains the often contradictory dispositions associated with divergent social doxa and illusio.
In order to qualify this assertion, that Zidane’s is a fractured habitus, it is necessary to demonstrate that Zidane’s head-butt, which was incongruous with the doxa of the field of professional football and the IFAB-approved habitus, was simultaneously congruous with a different set of dispositions embedded in his habitus. In this connection, the most pertinent media article concerning Zidane came not in the days following the World Cup final, but in April 2004 in an interview given to the Observer34. In it he stated:
My family are very proud of me, but I am very proud of them and where they come from. I am proud that they come from Kabylie. It is a special place and my roots there are important to me. We used to go all the time to my father’s home village when we were young’.
Later in the same interview he added:
For me the most important thing of all is that I still know who I am. Every day I think about where I come from and I am still proud to be who I am: first, a Kabyle from La Castellane’.

The Kabyle habitus and the Franco-Kabyle diaspora
The Kabyle of Algeria are, as has been indicated, one of the many examples to which Bourdieu applied and developed his theories of ‘field’ and ‘habitus’. By considering Bourdieu’s discussion of masculinity in the Kabyle village, it is possible to demonstrate the concordance of the head-butt and the Kabyle habitus and that Zidane’s fractured habitus contains, among others, the contrary dispositions of a professional footballer and a Kabyle man.
Bourdieu argues that the men of the Kabyle village are instilled with a distinctive habitus which disposes them, vis-à-vis Kabyle women, to participate in games of honour and the ‘market of symbolic goods’, whereby symbolic capital in the form of honour is accumulated and augmented35. Because the Kabyle village is a heavily patriarchal field, the ‘fundamental law’ of the market of symbolic goods is that ‘women are treated there as objects which circulate upwards’ as a form of exchangeable symbolic capital that is held by men36. Women are used to institute familial and/or economic relations between men through the institution of marriage. Because Kayblia was still very much a pre-capitalist society when Bourdieu he found it in the 1960s, social and symbolic capital were more or less the only possible forms of capital accumulation (and thus the only means of attaining and securing status positions in the village). Women were therefore ‘assets which must be protected from offence or suspicion’ to fulfil their ‘market function’ and augment the symbolic capital of men37. The value of these alliances between men, and the symbolic profit to be rendered from them, depended on the symbolic value of the women available for exchange; their reputation and especially their chastity. Thus the honour of women, writes Bourdieu:
‘…is constituted as a fetishised measure of masculine reputation, and therefore of the symbolic capital of the whole lineage – the honour of the brothers or fathers, which induces a vigilance, as attentive and even paranoid as that of the husbands, is a form of enlightened self interest38.
Symbolic capital, in the form of honour, in Kabyle society was held in common by a family, household or lineage and can be perpetuated successfully through the continual embodiment of virtue by all its members. Although the father was the head of the household, a dishonoured or unchaste daughter, sister or wife thus threatened the honour and status of the whole family.
Bourdieu observed men in Kabylia engaging in ‘games of honour’ – negotiating marriages, speaking in the village assembly, playing ‘smart sports’, holding salons – which constituted public performances39. ‘Men of honour’ were those capable of also providing a riposte whenever the honour of their household was challenged. Successfully defending his honour authenticated and augmented a man’s symbolic capital. The sense of honour, virility and manliness, that a Kabyle man had to invest in to be a ‘real man’ (in order to live up, in his own eyes, to a certain idea of manhood), writes Bourdieu, imposed itself as self evidence and governed the man of honour without the need for justification. It was its own reason; a logical necessity40. This sense of honour and manliness, inscribed in the habitus, imposed the duty of a man to assert his manliness in all circumstances, particularly in ‘the capacity to fight and exercise violence (especially in acts of revenge)’41.
While it may seem problematic to apply the findings of Bourdieu’s ethnography of Kabylia in the 1960s to the discussion of Zidane, born in Marseille in 1972, recent research suggests that many aspects of the Franco-Kabyle diaspora mirror the Kabyle village. According to Silverstein, Kabyle immigrants to France reproduced many of the social structures of the Kabyle village in the metrepole, including the authority of the prestige and lineage of the village elders, the village assemblies (reproduced formally and informally in cafes owned by Kabyle expatriates) and many aspects of the Kabyle house are symbolically reproduced in the French banilieues42. Silverstein also describes the continued importance of maintaining familial honour which still results in violence, carried out by family members, in acts of revenge43. Duret suggests, for example, that older brothers in the cités defend, assist and even punish younger relatives much in the same way as older family members do for the younger children of the Kabyle village44. Silverstein writes that ‘in the first place, forms of Kabyle village sociality have been reborn in the heart of French urbanism’45. Kabyle immigrants moreover ‘nostalgically reconstitute objectified cultural forms for a younger generation born and raised in the diaspora’46. While it would be incredibly naïve to suggest that the Kabyle diaspora in France has been immune to acculturation, Silverstein suggests that ‘models that presume a discontinuity or rupture between generations of immigrants fail to account for either the daily lived reality or the transpolitical (sic) mobilisation of multigenerational Algerian subjectivities in France’47.
Thus it is possible to argue that many of the fundamental dispositions of the Kabyle habitus, concerning masculinity and defence of familial honour, which we have outlined above, are likely to also reside in Zidane’s habitus. By his own admission, he developed a particularly strong cultural connection with Kabylia in visits made to his ‘home’ as a child48. However the point made by Silverstein is even more persuasive; that the social structures which produce and reproduce the Kabyle habitus, are also found in the context of the Kabyle diaspora in France.

The habitus and the head-butt
Having outlined the characteristics of the Kabyle habitus, it is possible to show that both the head-butt and Zidane’s justification thereof are almost entirely concordant therewith and, in so doing, demonstrate that the head-butt is attributable to Kabyle dispositions latent in Bourdieu’s fractured habitus, which, when Materazzi insulted the chastity of his mother and sister in the hundred and eleventh minute of the World Cup final, overrode the dispositions of the IFAB-approved habitus and erupted onto the field of play.
Kabyle masculinity dispenses with justification; it appears natural and self evident that a Kabyle man should act in a manner congruous with the masculine performance demanded by the Kabyle habitus and the doxa of the Kabyle village and the Franco-Kabyle diaspora. When Zidane stood before the world on the evening of July 12th and uttered the words ‘I am a man above all else’, he demonstrated Bourdieu’s point perfectly – masculinity is its own reason and a logical necessity. ‘I am a man above all else’ was, for Zidane, a satisfactory, justificatory explanation of his actions. It required no elaboration.
In Kabylia, as in France, honour must be validated by other men in so-called ‘games of honour’ that are played out in public spaces. That Zidane and Materazzi’s game of honour was played out in possibly the most public of all spaces – on the pitch at the World Cup final, under the gaze of over a billion people – is also in accordance with the Kabyle habitus. The fact that Zidane’s riposte to Materazzi’s ‘challenge’ was violent, rather than the eloquent rebuttal demanded by the ‘man of honour’, is attributable to one of the inherent contradictions of Kabyle masculinity: On the one hand, men are expected to possess the ability to defend their honour with a skilful riposte. On the other hand, men are expected to assert their manliness at all times and under all conditions in the capacity to fight and exercise violence, particularly in acts of revenge.
The protection of the chastity and reputation of female members of the Kabyle household is a matter of the utmost importance. Zidane’s reaction to Materazzi’s slur on the chastity and reputation of his mother and sister is clearly understandable in these terms. His words ‘I’d rather have been punched in the face’ attest the severity of this challenge to Zidane’s familial honour, while the violent reaction which it affected is evidence of the ‘vigilance’ described by Bourdieu as a ‘fetishised measure of masculine reputation’; an act of self-interested status preservation.

The convergence of fields; the rupture of a fractured habitus
Having shown that the head-butt was concordant with the Franco-Kabyle habitus and the and, earlier, that it was discordant with the IFAB-approved habitus (whose primary concern is the regulation of violence and the enforcement of sportsmanship on the field of play), it is possible to consider why the Kabyle habitus reared its head in the 2006 World Cup final and overrode the professional football habitus on the professional soccer field. In doing so, however, the discussion must inevitably enter the realm of speculation.
What is clear is that Zidane’s habitus is fractured, containing both the incumbencies of the Kabyle village and the contradictory imperatives of the professional football field. However, all individuals possess multifaceted identities, various aspects of which are manifest in different social contexts. An individual who successfully ‘manages’ his/her fractured habitus is able to ‘play up’ or ‘downplay’ particular aspects of their identity in certain contexts and different aspects thereof in other contexts. This process of subjectively tailoring the performance of appropriate aspects of the habitus is, furthermore, structurally regulated by the illusio which fields generate:
As can be recalled from earlier, entry into a game presupposes and implies a metamorphosis of the individual player, which implies a tacit adherence to the stakes and the rules of the game and a ‘feel for the game’ that allows him/her to differentiate between those things that the field establishes as important and those which it establishes as insignificant. In the professional football field, the World Cup is the most prestigious of all events and tournaments. Thus there are no higher stakes than those involved in the final match. The things which are most important and significant in the football field include, for example, winning matches, scoring goals and avoiding red-cards. How hurtful a taunt concerning the chastity of one’s sister might be is, on the other hand, insignificant to the field. Zidane’s head-butt on Materazzi is thus almost entirely antithetical to the illusio of the field of professional football. Yet, as has been demonstrated, it was more or less entirely congruous with the illusio of the field of the Kabyle village: In responding violently to Materazzi, Zidane was acknowledging the stakes of ‘honour games’ and the paramount importance of defending the reputation of female members of the household. Put simply, in head-butting Marco Materazzi, Zidane was taking the wrong ‘game’ seriously; manifesting the aspects of his fractured habitus that were inappropriate to the field.
If the soccer field were a purely autonomous and self-contained milieu, operating according to its own logic and doxa, Zidane’s violent eruption and his subsequent ejection from the field of play in the World Cup final (the most important of all football matches) would be virtually incomprehensible. However, despite the efforts of the IFAB and FIFA to establish the pitch and the stadium as shrines to sportsmanship, the field of professional football is not autonomous. Football is intertwined with, and overlapped by, various other social fields. Thus for Zidane, playing the game of football did not simply involve adherence to the rules of the game. He was forced to play games within the game every time he appeared on the pitch.
Overlaps exist, for example, between the field of national politics and international soccer in France. As an ‘accultured Kabyle’, Zidane was expected to adhere to the illusio of French nationalism by acknowledging the importance of victory in the FIFA World Cup, not just for the team but for the French nation. As a second-generation migrant remaining true to his roots, he was a hero and representative for Maghrebis (providing of course he demonstrated that his father was not a harki), and a symbol of successful multicultural integration in France. As a Kabyle, he was expected to interpellate the illusio of the Kabyle village and assert his manliness at all times and under all conditions in the capacity to fight and exercise violence, particularly in acts of revenge. As a professional footballer he was expected to possess the IFAB-approved habitus and accede to the illusio of the field of professional soccer. As the world’s best player, he was expected to demonstrate with unfailing regularity the almost superhuman feats of footballing virtuoso demanded by his millions of adulating fans worldwide.
Simply playing football, for Zidane, involved the convergence of the doxa and illusio of many interrelated fields, all of which placed different and often irreconcilable pressures on his fractured habitus. As former team-mate Bixente Lizarazu put it, ‘nobody in France can imagine what is demanded of Ziz. It's not pressure, it's oppression’49. Finally, under the various oppressive pressures being continually exerted on Zidane – who was also undoubtedly tired and frustrated at the end of a long and emotionally charged match, Materazzi’s insult became a catalyst causing his delicately balanced yet ineluctably fractured habitus to rupture and the Kabyle habitus to erupt onto the soccer field in the form of the now infamous head-butt.

This paper has argued that neither media explanations nor conventional academic approaches to football and masculinity are particularly well placed to offer an understanding of the incident on the 9th July 2006 when Zinedine Zidane was ejected from the field of play after head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi. Only a combination of Eliasian and Bourdieusian approaches, capable of unravelling – through the theoretical apparatus of field, doxa, illusio, habitus and hexis – the historical development of the game of football, the complexities of Zidane’s ethno-cultural biography and the considerable (and often antithetical) pressures that he was under, is able to grasp the multifarious realities underlying the incident and provide a critical, sophisticated and appropriate sociology of the head-butt. This preferable approach has shown that Materazzi’s insults acted as a catalyst, causing the contradictory dispositions latent within Zidane’s fractured habitus to clash, and those of the Kabyle habitus to erupt onto the soccer field in the form of the head-butt. The paper has a number of implications, two of which are particularly noteworthy. Firstly, it calls upon those authors who have analysed football within the conventional framework of ‘masculinities’ research to take care in differentiating between the games that are played in diverse football contexts, rather than reducing various instances of football to football per se and uncritically assuming the coincidence of football and violent hegemonic masculinities. Secondly, despite the efforts of FIFA and the IFAB to establish football as an autonomous field, governed entirely by its own logic, this paper has shown that the field of professional soccer in entwined with and overlapped by numerous other fields. Is it fair to expect modern footballers to operate under such extreme pressures? Should the strains and stresses which footballers experience have a bearing on the rules of game? One thing is certain. Although the world of football will undoubtedly witness similar instances of ‘rupture’ on the soccer field in the future, it is unlikely that any future incident will kick up such a momentous storm of global interest; there is, and always will be, only one Zinedine Zidane.

List of References

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Algeria 1960: The disenchantment of the world, the sense of honour, the Kabyle house or the world reversed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [1979]

Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press [1984]

― ‘The forms of capital’ in Richardson JG (ed.) The Handbook of Theory: Research for the sociology of education. New York: Greenwood Press [1986]

― ‘The peculiar history of scientific reason’, Sociological Forum, 6 (1) [1991]: 3-26

Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Polity Press [1992]

Masculine Domination. Cambridge: Polity Press [2001]

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Dunning, E. ‘Power and authority in the public schools (1700-1850)’ in P.R. Gleichmann, J. Goudsblom & H. Korte (eds.) Human Figurations. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Sociologisch Tijdschrift [1977]

Dunning, E. & Sheard K. Barbarians, Gentlemen and Players. Oxford: Blackwell [1979]

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Elias, N. The Germans: Power struggles and the development of habitus in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Cambridge: Polity Press [1996]

The Civilising Process. Oxford: Blackwell [1978]

Elias, N. & Dunning, E. Quest for excitement: Sport and leisure in the civilizing process. Oxford: Blackwell [1986]

Epstein, D. ‘Boyz own stories: masculinities and sexualities in schools’ Gender and Education, 9 (1) [1997]: 105-115

Francis, B. Boys, Girls and Achievement: Addressing the classroom issues. London: Routledge [2000]

Fysh, P. & Wolfreys, J. The Politics of Racism in France 2nd edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, [2003].

Gilbert, R. & Gilbert, P. Masculinity Goes to School. London: Routledge [1998]

Giulianotti, R. Sport: A critical sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press [2005]

Hughson, J. & Inglis, D. ‘Merleau-Ponty in the field: towards a spatial phenomenology of soccer spaces’. Space and Culture, 1 (6) [2000]

Hughson, J., Inglis, D. & Free, M. The Uses of Sport: A critical study. London: Routledge [2005]

Merleau-Ponty, M. Phenomenology of Perception 2nd edition. London: Routledge [2002]

Renold, E. ‘“Other” boys; negotiating non-hegemonic masculinities in the primary school’, Gender and Education, 16 (2) [2004]: 247-265

Silverstein, P. A. Algeria in France: Transpolitics, race and nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press [2004]

Swain, J. ‘The money’s good, the fame’s good, the girls are good: the role of playground football in the construction of young boys’ masculinity in a junior school’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 21 (1) [2000]: 95-109

Thompson, J. B. ‘Editor’s introduction’ in P. Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press [1992]

Throop, C. J. & Murphy, K. M. ‘Bourdieu and phenomenology: a critical assessment’, Anthropological Theory, 2 [2002]: 185-207

 I would like to thank Prof. David Inglis (University of Aberdeen) for his extensive and invaluable comments on earlier drafts of this paper, and Dr Nadia Kiwan (University of Aberdeen) who helped me locate literature on the Kabyle diaspora in France

1 ‘ZZ top’, Observer, 4th April 2004

2 ‘Read my lips: the taunt that made Zidane snap’, Times Online, 11th July 2006; ‘Team-mates back Zidane as insult is revealed’, Daily Mail, 11th July 2006

3 The harkis were Algerians who had fought for the French in the Algerian War of Independence. They were, and still are, despised by the Algerians as collaborators and cowards. Left to fend for themselves, in the final days of the war, the harkis – of whom nearly 100,000 fled to France following wide spread torture and massacres in Algeria – are an embarrassing reminder to the French of defeat and disavowal as non-recognition of those who died defending French Algeria remains an issue yet to be fully resolved. Upon returning to France the harkis were housed in disused army camps and some were given employment in forestry projects, known by their children as ‘reservations’ (cf. Fysh & Wolfreys, The Politics of Racism in France, 30).

4 ‘Materazzi breaks Zidane silence’, BBC Sport Online, 5th September 2006

5 Hughson and Inglis, ‘Merleau-Ponty in the field’

6 Connell, Masculinities 2nd Edition

7 ibid., 77

8 Gilbert & Gilbert, Masculinity Goes to School

9 Francis, Boys, Girls and Achievement

10 Renold, ‘Other boys’

11 Epstein, ‘Boyz own stories’

12 Swain, ‘The money’s good, the fame’s good, the girls are good’

13 ibid., 107

14 ibid., 103

15 ibid., 101

16 Elias talks about the habitus as an individual, psychic structure that is moulded by social attitudes and experienced as second nature (cf. Elias, Civilising Process). Bourdieu subsequently developed the concept of the habitus in works like ‘Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture’, ‘Outline of a Theory of Practice’, ‘Distinction’, and ‘The Logic of Practice’.

17 Bourdieu, The Peculiar History of Scientific Reason

18 Bourdieu and Passeron, Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture

19 Particularly Merleau-Ponty’s discussion of the ‘habit body’ in Phenomenology of Perception

20 Throop and Murphy, ‘Bourdieu and Phenomenology’; see also Bourdieu, Logic of Practice, 87 and Thompson, ‘Editor’s Introduction’ to P. Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power

21 Swain, The money’s good, the fame’s good, the girls are good’, 103

22 e.g. Young, ‘Throwing like a girl’

23 e.g. Bourdieu’s discussion of men refusing to eat fish in Distinction

24 e.g. Elias, The Germans

25 Elias and Dunning, Quest for excitement

26 Dunning, ‘Power and authority in the public schools (1700-1850)’

27 Dunning and Sheard, Barbarians, Gentlemen and Players

28 Hughson, Inglis and Free, The Uses of Sport, 22

29 Swain, ‘The fame’s good, the money’s good, the girls are good’, 99; The International Football Association Board are responsible for the regulation and modification of the laws of international football and are comprised of four FIFA representatives and one from the English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh football associations

30 The demarcation and regulation of the soccer field has been echoed by the development of the modern stadium. Most European football spectators watch the games from under the surveillance of panopticonesque systems which have been made more effective by the replacement of standing-terraces with rows of individual seats and are comprised by the gaze of stewards, police officers and cameras. The seats themselves even act as physical impediments to expressive or aggressive spectator actions and restrict rapid fan movements (cf. Giulianotti, Sport: a critical sociology, 129-30)

31 e.g. Bourdieu, Algeria 1960; Masculine Domination

32 Bourdieu, Algeria 1960, 32

33 ibid., 5

34 ‘ZZ top’, Observer, 4th April 2004

35 Bourdieu, Masculine Domination, 42. Elsewhere Bourdieu defines symbolic capital as ‘capital – in whatever form – insofar as it is represented, i.e., apprehended symbolically, in a relationship of knowledge or, more precisely, of misrecognition and recognition’ (cf. ‘The forms of capital’, 243).

36 Bourdieu, Masculine Domination, 43

37 ibid., 45

38 ibid., 45

39 ibid., 48

40 ibid., 48-50

41 ibid., 50-1

42 Silverstein, Algeria in France

43 ibid., 167

44 Duret, Anthropologie de la fraternité dan les cités, 33

45 Silverstein, Algeria in France, 115

46 ibid., 120

47 ibid., 153

48 ‘ZZ top’, Observer, 4th April 2004

49 ‘Zinedine Zidane; he delights, he dazzles, now Zizou wants to run the show’, Independent on Sunday, June 13th 2004

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