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By ESPN Staff

Zidane: Materazzi insulted my mother and sister

Zinedine Zidane has publicly apologised for his sending-off in the World Cup final, but claimed he did not regret his actions against Marco Materazzi.

Zidane, who was captaining his country in his final match before retirement, stated that Materazzi insulted his mother and sister in the seconds leading up to the incident, which saw the France midfielder thrust his head into the Italy defender's chest.

'I reacted badly and I would like to apologise for it,' Zidane told Canal Plus. 'I would like to apologise because a lot of children were watching the match. I do apologise but I don't regret my behaviour because regretting it would mean he was right to say what he said.

'There was no tension with Materazzi before or during the match.

'He just put his hand onto my shirt and I told him to stop. I told him that if he wanted it I could give it to him at the end of the match.

'Then he said very harsh words to me and repeated them several times. I left but then I went back towards him and things went very fast. The words he said concerned my mother and sister.

'I heard them once, then twice, and the third time I couldn't control myself. I am a man and some words are harder to hear than actions. I would have rather been knocked down than hear that.'

'Afterwards I explained to the referee that I had been provoked, but my behaviour is not forgivable,' Zidane said.

Without Zidane, who had earlier given France the lead with a penalty, extra-time finished with the score locked at 1-1, and Zidane's team lost the penalty shoot-out 5-3 to Italy.

Asked whether he plans to attend FIFA hearings into the incident, Zidane said that he would seek to defend himself.

'I will go and I will tell everything I have just said,' he added. 'The reaction is always punished but if there is no provocation there is no reaction. The guilty person is the one who provokes.

'If I reacted that way, it is because something bad happened. Do you really believe that 10 minutes before the end of my career I would be able to make such a bad gesture? The provocation was very serious.'

The incident was a sad way to end what has been a glittering career for Zidane, but he insisted he would not change his mind about retiring.

'This is a decision I have made and I will not go back on it,' he said. 'This is definite. I will not play again.'

Materazzi himself, who scored the equaliser for Italy on Sunday, made a statement of his own while Zidane was speaking on French television.

'I didn't mention anything about religion, politics or racism,' he said. 'I didn't insult his mother. I lost my mother when I was 15 years old and still get emotional when I talk about it.

'Naturally, I didn't know that his mother was in hospital but I wish her all the best.

'Zidane is my hero and I have always admired him a lot.'