Bans and fines for Zidane and Materazzi

Zinedine Zidane: banned three games, fined 7,500 Swiss Francs (US$6,000).
Marco Materazzi: banned two games, fined 5,500 Swiss Francs (US$4,000).

That's FIFA's verdict on the 2006 World Cup final headbutting incident.

For players at the level of Zidane and Materazzi, the fine is nothing more than pocket money. The bans only prevent playing for the national teams so by and large, they're pretty meaningless. Zidane's officially retired anyway (he's agreed to do three days' worth of community service with children and young people in lieu of the games ban).

Given the occasion - a World Cup final watched by millions - I expected FIFA to come down harder on both players. Neither the bans nor the fines will make any difference. FIFA is essentially sending out the message that players can get away with thuggish behaviour on the field, even during the biggest event of them all.

The only "good" thing about the incident is that Materazzi's sledging wasn't racist, FIFA says. I wouldn't personally make any distinction between racist insults or ones against my family, but FIFA seems to have a graduated scale there.

While the French football federation accepts FIFA's verdict, voices in Italy think its scandalous. Well, yes, but only because the punishment meted out was so mild.

We'll see if FIFA makes good of president Sepp Blatter's threat to take away Zidane's Golden Ball award as best player of the tournament. I don't think it will.

More information

Other related posts:
Outrageously camp football referee caught on camera
Zidane? Try North Korean women footballers instead...
Rotten core of Italian football punished

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