Soccer needed that headbutt

Like any other red-blooded American, I hate World Cup soccer.

It’s too slow, there’s not enough scoring and the United States sucks at it. Soccer would be fun if they let the two teams of 11 line up, let one person pick up the ball and run toward the goal while they tried to tackle the ball carrier. In fact, I made a point of not watching for the entire duration. But when I heard France was amazingly in the final of an actual sporting event, I had to watch, because if there’s anything I hate more than soccer, it’s the French.

So I woke up Sunday at my customary time – 1 p.m. – and had some soccer with my Freedom toast.

A funny thing happened while I was watching the game.

Zinédine Zidane, the captain of France’s team, was ejected for using his head as a battering ram when he thrust his skull into the chest of Italy’s Marco Materazzi. The game was tied after Zidane left and France would go on to lose in a penalty kick shootout.

Zidane had announced this was the last game in what I guess was a really long and storied career. After the loss, a dejected Zidane was seen walking off with his head toward the ground, obviously upset over losing the World Cup.

But Zidane should hold his head high. After all, he did soccer a favor.

Soccer, like everything else in the world, needs America to support it in order to become popular – just look at hamburgers, Coca-Cola and democracy – and Zidane single-headedly endeared himself to every American watching Sunday’s game.

We the people of the United States love sports, and if there’s anything we love more than sports, it’s fisticuffs. Americans will watch anyone fight anything – just ask the FOX network. Animals, celebrities, midgets – you put ’em in a ring, we’ll buy the tickets. So as an American, it was refreshing to see Zidane, a player in the twilight of his “great” career, go out on a high note.

Headbutts are exciting. Just look at the excitement coach Jim Leavitt exudes. Zidane even improved my opinion of the French.

Before Zidane, I thought every French person drank wine, was rude and would spit on you and seduce your girlfriend before giving you the time of day. But Zidane was the complete opposite of that.

It’s too bad it was Zinédine “Ze Azzazin’s” last game, because I bet he would like to hear that I added his name – alongside Pepe LePew and Jacques Clouseau – to the list of Frenchmen I like.

Zidane may have been an enforcer, but he was an enforcer for his game and what he believed in. He plowed his bald head of progress through that Italian player’s jersey in the name of soccer. To listen to the commentators, you’d think he did it out of frustration or aggression. Not so. He did it for his country and, more importantly, his sport.

Until Zidane, the face of soccer was that of David “Bend it like” Beckham, a snooty Brit with nice hair and a hot wife. Now soccer is Zidane, a bent-on-revenge bald guy with a bad attitude.

Zidane may hear some harsh words in the coming weeks; even the announcer who called the game said it was “a vicious, vicious foul.” But Zidane needs to block out the haters; to me, he is G.I. Zinedine, a true Franco-American hero.

Zidane may have ignored his coach, teammates and other players when walking off the field Sunday, but he should be proud – he did things the right way: the American way.