MOHAMED AL MALKI / AIPS  in Doha* —– Zinedine Zidane found some larger than life attention in the Qatari capital on Friday when a huge statue immortalising the headbutt he inflicted on Itay’s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final went on an outdoor display.

Standing 16.5ft, the statue has been set up on Doha Corniche, a favourite venue all year round for joggers. Commissioned by the Qatar Museums Authority, the sculpture was produced by Algerian-born French artist Adel Abdessemed.

The most infamous headbutt in football history

The same Coup de Tete sculpture was put on display earlier outside the Pompidou Centre in Paris and then again, between July and September, in the Italian coastal town of Pietrasanta.

Abdessemed, who is based in New York and Paris, transforms materials and imagery into unexpected and sometimes provocative artistic declarations, using a wide range of media, including drawing, video, photography, performance, and sculpture.

Greek tragedies

His inspiration comes from many sources — personal, historical, social, and political — and his work is considered to range between the sensitive and controversial, the radical and the mundane.

Jean Paul Engelen, Director of Public Art at QMA, said: “Adel Abdessemed’s sculpture tells a 21st Century story in a 19th Century style. It looks to the ancient Greek tragedies to trace doomed heroes and the frailties of human nature.

“In our world we look to football players as super heroes like their classical forebears. Ultimately they display the same faults and defects we have and particularly when family honour is at stake. We are very proud that this sculpture has made its way from the Pompidou Museum in Paris to Doha’s Corniche.”

Not everyone was as impressed. Local media received a number of messages complaining in similar fashion this objection:  “We want a legitimate fatwa from the Ministry of Endowments on this statue because statues in Islam are not acceptable and Zidane’s action was not ethical.”

In the meantime, like his work or not, the Arab Museum of Modern Art is staging an exhibition of works by Abdessemed – L’âge d’or (Golden Age) – until January 5.

Zidane was hailed as one of the greatest players of the modern era during a World Cup, European Championship and Champions League-winning career with France, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid. He also won the Italian and Spanish leagues, the World Club Cup and UEFA Supercup.

However his career ended in dramatic controversy when he was sent off in the closing minutes of extra time in the 2006 World Cup Final for retaliation against Materazzi after a family insult from the Italian player.

Zidane had already said, before the finals began, that he would retire after the tournament.

That retirement has included a permanent backstage role with Madrid and a commission as a World Cup 2022 bid ambassador for . . . Qatar.

** Mohamed Al Malki is vice-president of the AIPS [the international sports journalists’ association] and president of the Qatar Sports Press Association

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