French football star Zinedine Zidane said he was sorry for head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final, but did not regret the act, which caused him to be tossed out of the match.
Zidane, who was named best player of the tournament, said he had reacted after being insulted by Materazzi with "very hard words".
"I apologize to all the children who saw that. It was not the thing to do," Zidane told Canal Plus television on Wednesday.
But he added that he did not regret what he did.
"To regret what I did would be to say that he was right for saying what he said, and he was not right," Zidane said.
Although he did not repeat what Materazzi had said to him, the retiring football star said it had to do with his sister and his mother.
"These were very personal things," Zidane said. "They had to do with my mother, my sister. He said words that were very hard, and he repeated them several times. You listen once, and you try to go away. That's what I did. You hear it a second time, and then a third time."
He said he regretted doing what he did before "billions of spectators and millions of children", but also criticised the rules of football for sanctioning the players who react but not those who provoke the reactions.
"If there is no provocation, then there is no reaction," Zidane said. "What I did was unforgivable, but the real guilty one must be punished and that is the one who provokes."
Zidane was tossed out of the match, which Italy won in a penalty shoot-out, after he head-butted Materazzi in the chest in the 110th minute of the match.