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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 10, 2006

Zidane was provoked into head-butt - Gallas

France defender William Gallas claimed that Marco Materazzi must have severely provoked Zinedine Zidane for the midfielder to headbutt Italy's defender.

Zidane was sent off in Les Bleus' World Cup final defeat against Italy - his final football match.

The playmaker, hero of France's 1998 World Cup win, was ordered off by Argentinian referee Horacio Elizondo after butting Materazzi in the chest when the two had clashed verbally.

France had appeared to be having the better of extra-time until the incident but, after Zidane's dismissal, it was Italy who went onto win a penalty shoot-out 5-3 - the match had finished 1-1.

Asked what Materazzi had said to Zidane, Gallas said: 'I can't be sure what happened because I did not see the incident.

'But it must have been something bad for Zizou to react in that way. It's a pity but sometimes when you are playing it's very difficult to contain your emotions when someone is trying to provoke you like that.'

Asked whether he felt Materazzi was to blame, Gallas said: 'Well he did not want to talk to any of you (journalists) tonight. There must be a reason for that. It's a pity this sort of thing happens.'

Materazzi walked past journalists playing music and refused to comment in a match where he was at the centre of all the main incidents - he gave away the penalty from which Zidane opened the scoring and scored the equaliser.

Then he was the key figure in the incident that ended Zidane's career before he converted one of Italy's five successful penalties.

'It's not a problem for me but for FIFA,' continued Gallas. 'They are the people who have to deal with issues like this.

'I don't know if it was the turning point of the match but we are not blaming him (Zidane) because he has done so much for the team.

'I will not forget this World Cup which has been a very big experience for all of us and it's a pity we did not win.'

Gallas admitted he was sad that Zidane's career had ended in such a way.

'I am very sad for him as this was his last World Cup,' said the defender. 'We all wanted to win this for him so he could go out on a high.'

Some reports in France and England have suggested Gallas wants to leave Chelsea in the summer but the 28-year-old refused to discuss his future.

'I am going on holiday now,' said Gallas. 'We will see what happens after that.'