How quickly things can change.
Premier League Tickets Available from Tixdaq.com
A few months ago it would have been unimaginable to have envisaged France casting ridicule over one of their greatest ever footballers, but it seems that time has arrived.
As the dust finally settled following FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a certain Frenchman has been subjected to disparaging remarks that are threatening to undermine his reputation and status within the game.
It may come as a surprise but the individual in question is not Michel Platini, the UEFA president, but a certain Zinedine Zidane.
Arguably one of the greatest footballers of the past decade, Zidane is fast becoming ostracised in his adopted homeland for his involvement in the Qatari World Cup bid.
Lawyers are preparing their writs following an unprecedented barrage of criticism aimed at Zidane who is being accused of ‘selling himself’ to Qatar. Such hostility towards the man who led France in 1998 to World Cup success with two goals against Brazil would have been unimaginable a matter of months ago.
Zidane became a national hero following France’s triumph but his recent endorsement of the Qatar bid, for which he earned a reported £1.9m, has seen him widely criticised for his motivations. French internet sites have been quick to cast aspersions on Zidane, with one saying “If China had paid him, he would have supported the Chinese bid”.
Zidane, also referred to as ‘Zizou’, originated from Algeria but, in the eyes of the French public, this does not seem a reasonable motive for supporting the bid of a state with a population of only 1.7 million.
Yannick Noah, the former tennis player – turned – pop singer who is France’s most popular public figure in opinion polls, summarised the recent furore when he said: “I love Zizou but that Qatar business stinks.”
Noah is not the only personality to have his say. Christophe Aleveque, a comedian, went further by saying “This guy is an advertising hoarding with three neurons…who exploits his image outrageously. For me it’s a form of prostitution.”
Following intervention from Zidane’s lawyers, Maitre Pascal Garbarini, Alvereque’s lawyer, said that the comedian “regretted the use of certain terms” but maintained the thrust of his argument.
This dim view of Zidane could be damaging to his long-term commercial activities and standing in France, where he currently earns about £30m a year by fronting advertising campaigns for companies such as adidas, the dairy group Danone and the mobile phone operator Orange.
“There are no limits to one’s dreams” he said in the advertisement for Qatar’s bid. Only time will tell how long-lasting the damage will be from this much maligned endorsement to Zidane’s reputation.