Zinedine Zidane has played a top position of world football — center-forward. As a TV presenter, he interviewed most of the biggest names in sports: Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Roger Federer, Usain Bolt. He is as good a friend to people in that arena as he is to those in music, television, and journalism. Today he was in Saint-Etienne, home of one of Europe’s biggest clubs, as part of a news report, doing what has become part of life for that crowd, chanting on the field.
But this was an outrageous affair. This was not the case many people have come to expect of Zidane. Not football. Not professional sports. Not even news or interviewers. He was conducting an interview with children, when all of a sudden he showed up in the stands brandishing a sword and dressed in all black.
Yes, the diminutive Zidane had leapt off stage as he walked into the stands of the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard with the huge Hollywood star, a Frenchman named Marc Rochette, already there. Rochette is well known for his weird and crazy performances, most notably in the one that won him a place in both French and American pop culture, and one where a knife can be held to his throat as he paces off stage.
Let’s call the coach of Saint-Etienne, Frank Arnesen, dumbfounded. The interviewer proceeded, as fans often are allowed to do at big events, to film the surreal segment with a cellphone.
The stunt left some commentators in droves, exasperated.
“Is Zidane insane?” asked Paul Merson on Sky Sports. “Can you imagine anything this stupid?”
More shockingly, though, Zidane’s teammate, the French midfielder Blaise Matuidi, has been more scathing. He told reporters today that Zidane should have been advised about the appearance beforehand, but he didn’t know how to do that.
“He’s in shock,” Matuidi said. “He’s upset about it.”
Matuidi has said the event shouldn’t make him scared, but maybe for someone who has set a record with his achievements, the thought of a thousand smashed bottle targets does.