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Zidane is still France's darling

Acording to a poll, Zizou is the most popular person in France. Read more...

india Updated: Aug 13, 2006 20:38 IST

No buts about it, Zinedine Zidane is France's favourite personality.

Despite the head butt on an Italian defender that arguably cost France the World Cup, the former captain of the national soccer side is by far the most popular personality in the country, a new poll showed on Sunday.

Zidane was shown a red card 10 minutes before the end of extra time in the July 9 final after felling Italy's Marco Materazzi. That ensured he missed the penalty shoot-out that decided the match in Italy's favour.

But a survey by pollster Ifop for the Journal du Dimanche showed Zidane -- hailed as a footballing genius and one of the finest players of his generation -- is now the country's most popular figure for 48 percent of French people.

"The day after July 9, for many, his reputation seemed to have sunk. His head butt had ruined everything. And yet...," the newspaper said of Zidane in an article accompanying the survey.

"We have to believe that the French have forgiven him, have even knighted him," it said.

Zidane's 48 percent was way ahead of the country's former favourite Yannick Noah, the ex-tennis champion who has launched a successful new career as a pop star. He came second with 30 percent.

Third place, with an unspecified figure, went to ecologist Nicolas Hulot followed by ageing French rocker Johnny Hallyday and film star Jean Reno.

The head butt ruined Zidane's swan-song, as the final was the last competitive match in an illustrious career that had taken him from his native Marseille to footballing giants Juventus and Real Madrid.

Zidane later said he had struck Materazzi after the Italian insulted his sister and mother, and offered only a partial apology for his actions. The pair were fined and given three- and two-match bans respectively by FIFA last month.

French President Jacques Chirac captured the mood of national forgiveness in the wake of the narrow defeat, hailing Zidane as a "virtuoso, a genius of world football" admired and loved by the country.

With the chart-topping success of the cheeky summer hit "Coup de Boule" (Head Butt), which immortalised Zidane's strike in song, it was clear France had forgiven its favourite son.


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