French football legend Zinedine Zidane continues to refuse to say sorry to Italy's Marco Materazzi, whom he head-butted during the final of the 2006 Soccer World Cup in Germany.
"I say I'm sorry to football, to the fans, to the team," Zidane said in an interview that the Spanish daily El Pais published Monday. "After the match I went into the changing room and I told them, 'Sorry. This does not change anything. But I'm sorry, everyone.'"
"But with him I can't. Never, never. It would be to dishonour myself," Zidane added. "I'd rather die."
That match was also the last that Zidane ever played before retiring, and it ended a brilliant career in a painful way: with a defeat and a red card for the aggression against Materazzi.
Zidane continued to revisit that day in Germany, without however giving details of what set off a veteran, usually calm player in such rage.
"If I say I'm sorry I would also be admitting that what (Materazzi) did was normal. And for me it was not normal. Things happen on the pitch. It happened to me many times. But there I could not stand it," he explained.
Materazzi reportedly insulted Zidane's mother.
"People insulted my mother more than once and I never reacted. But then ... it just happened," he said. "If it had been Kaka, a normal guy, a good guy, of course I would have said I was sorry. But this guy! If I say I'm sorry I'd be disrespecting myself and all those I love with all my heart."
Zidane, Ballon d'Or 1998 and FIFA Player of the Years 1998, 2000 and 2003, is currently involved with several charity organisations, and does unpaid work representing Real Madrid and advising its president, Florentino Perez.
He recalled his admiration for Uruguay's Enzo Francescoli.
"Francescoli was always my reference. I always wanted to be Enzo: I admired that idea of nobility, of work, of effort," Zidane recalled. "When I tell him, he is happy about it, but he does not exactly know how that helped me."
Among currently active players, Zidane highlights Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.
"He wants to be the best. And he says so," Zidane said. "But it is one thing to say it and it is another to do it. He says it and then he gets up early to be at (the training ground) 8 a.m., two hours earlier than necessary. And he stays there for six hours," he explained.