Football: Zidane 'headbutt' statue angers officials

PARIS - A row is simmering over a giant bronze sculpture depicting French footballer Zinedine Zidane's infamous headbutt on Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final, which has been placed outside the Pompidou Arts Centre in Paris.

The five-metre tall statue is the work of French, Algerian-born artist Adel Abdessemed, who is being honoured by the Pompidou with a retrospective on his work from October to January.

But its prominent display outside the popular centre has angered the national association of local French football officials who claim that it is not the image of Zidane, who retired after the 2006 World Cup final, that should be promoted.

"By choosing this provocative image, the artist has deliberately opted to ignore all your talents and all the postitive emotions that you were able to share with the people of our country," the officials wrote in an open letter to Zidane.

They called on him to use the full powers of his influence to have the statue removed immediately, adding that it would have been better to have highlighted his two headed goals in France's 3-0 win over Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final.

Zidane's headbutt on Materazzi, who he claimed had provoked him, came during extra time in the 2006 final in Berlin with the sides tied at 1-1. He was red carded and thus missed the penalty shoot-out which Italy won.

Pompidou Centre chief Alain Seban expressed shock at the complaints, saying that they amounted to an attempt to censure artistic creativity.

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