XY There are very few words commencing with these two letters of the alphabet in French and nearly all are borrowed such as Yaourt or Xylophone. I am also assuming living in yurts is becoming as popular in other nations as it is in France? So I shall move swiftly on to Z to conclude my A-Z experience of over a decade in France.
Zinedine Zidane (Zizou)
I am sure, even if you didn’t know, that you would guess that the national sport in France is soccer – Le Foot –Though not yet living here, I was in France for the summer of 1998 when France not only hosted, but won the World Cup (beating Brazil 3:0 in the final). I was also in Milan when Italy won the cup in 1982. It is an explosive experience to be in a nation when it wins and/or hosts the FIFA cup!
Zinedine Zidane was part of the winning ‘98 team and went on to captain the French team. He is up there with the greats, considered one of the best football players of all time. He went on to score the winning goal in Real Madrid’s 2002 Champions’ League triumph. But as his footballing fame grew the French-born son of Kabyle (Algerian) immigrants insisted on reminding fans of the qualities that propelled him to the top in the first place: determination, hard work, modesty, and unflinching commitment to the family and friends who helped his transformation from skinny little “Yazid” of north Marseille into the millionaire and world-famous star “Zizou.”
“I owe everything to my parents, family and friends, who taught me right from wrong, and insisted I show discipline in the tough neighborhood of my childhood,” says Zidane, today a father of four himself. “I know how lucky I am, and will never forget the efforts and sacrifices people made for me. And I also know that it’s my responsibility to serve as an example — to show young people a road they can follow that doesn’t lead in one of many bad directions.”
I am no great football fan, preferring international rugby myself, but this star truly stands out for his dedicated work for underprivileged kids and how he captured the heart of a nation. He is painfully shy and private yet has put himself again and again in the media spotlight to help others. Since 2001 Zidane has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. Development Programme, and he also represented the European Leukodystrophy Association in its efforts to battle deadly genetic diseases of the nervous system. “There are things in this world that are more important than football,” Zidane says of this work. “This involvement is the kind of thing my family, my upbringing and people I love have always encouraged. It’s something that is part of you or isn’t — but it’s not something you embark upon or give up for any amount of fame or success.”
While his God-like status collapsed after a sad head-butting incident during his 2006 world cup comeback, to the French he still retains his national hero status. President Chirac said after the incident, “France loves you and admires you. You have made us experience an unforgettable moment in the past month by allowing us to reach a second World Cup final in eight years.”Whether one understands or condemns this moment of aggression, there isn’t a Frenchman from 8 to 80 who doesn’t know this name and respect his achievements on and off the pitch for France and hundreds of children worldwide.