Head-butter: Christian or lapsed Muslim?

zidanMolly Moore wrote in Tuesday's Washington Post that France's national soccer team captain Zinedine Zidane, banished in the final minutes of Sunday's World Cup final for head-butting an opponent in a moment of rage, is the "son of Christian Algerian immigrants." But other news reports have described him as a "non-practicing Muslim," as stated in a Wikipedia article and backed up by this article in The Hindu.

Here's the Post's summary of events:

PARIS, July 10 -- French soccer captain Zinedine Zidane -- voted the World Cup's top player -- should have been reveling in a hero's welcome Monday afternoon.

Instead, he stood on a balcony overlooking a crowd of cheering fans at Paris's Place de la Concorde a day after a game that ended with not only disappointment but also disgrace.

[The Post has corrected a mistake, which appeared only in its online story, that said Zidane was "sobbing uncontrollably and breaking into tears at Paris's Place de la Concorde." His teammate David Trezeguet was the player seen crying.]

One of France's few modern-day heroes and one of the greatest soccer players of his generation, Zidane -- in a startling show of rage in the 110th minute of Sunday's World Cup final -- transformed a night of patriotic pride into a morning of national shame and despair across France. Having announced his intention to retire from the sport after the tournament, his head butt of Italian defender Marco Materazzi resulted in a red card and thus likely was the final on-field act of his career.

So is Zidane a lapsed Muslim with Christian parents? There's a story to be told here. His parents are from Algeria, which according to the CIA is 99 percent Sunni Muslim and 1 percent Christian and Jewish.

Why does this matter? Some have speculated that Zidane slammed his head into the chest of Italian footballer Marco Materazzi because Materazzi called Zidane "the son of a terrorist whore," in addition to other not-so-nice words.

Materazzi has denied using these words, saying that he "categorically did not call him a terrorist. I'm not cultured and I don't even know what an Islamic terrorist is."

Materazzi maintains that he engaged in the typical taunting that goes on in nearly all sports, but I find it hard to believe that a player like Zidane could flip out and harm his spectacular World Cup football over a few silly taunts. I guess we'll find out soon when Zidane gives an interview to France's Canal Plus.

So while our friends cover the simmering controversy that is Zidane's head-butt, I'd like to point you to Jon Stewart's Daily Show, which did some research and discovered the roots of the France/Italian football rivalry: an attempt to resolve the ancient score between the two countries over Pope Clement V's decision to move the papacy to France. The Daily Show knows its religion history.

Please respect our Commenting Policy