The World Cup Final of 2006 Came to a Dramatic End

As you might remember the French star player Zinedine Zidane, nicknamed “Zizou“, received a red card for giving Italian Marco Materazzi a so-called headbutt. It was also his last match as a professional football player

Could cultural differences, or, in this case, cultural programming, have been at the root of Zizou’s emotional display of anger? Let’s find out.

world cup final 2006 zinedine zidane

Did the remarks of Italian soccer player Marco Materazzi in the FIFA World Cup Finals to Zidane make the latter lose face or not?

If so, we should not be surprised about Zidane’s response. Why? Zidane’s parents originally came from Algeria, a collectivistic society. Zidane himself was born in France in 1972 making him second-generation French/Algerian. This could mean that to some extent he could have been mentally “programmed” by his parents with some Algerian values.

The main characteristic of a collectivistic society is that people are a member of an extended family or “in-group“. This group takes care of its members, however in return for strict loyalty. Nowadays, wealthy French/Algerians, like Zidane, don’t need groups to take care of them, but the collectivistic values still maybe “internalized” within Zidane’s mind.

One characteristic of a collectivistic society is that the individuals in the group or the group itself may never be criticized openly by non-group members because they would lose face. If Materazzi has made very strong remarks towards Zidane (allegedly insulting Zidane by saying bad things about his sister), the feeling of loss of face may have caused “the anger” that Zinadine showed.


Even when it comes to the worldwide game of soccer, cultural differences play a role. As you could have seen in the world cup final of 2006.

To read more about French football and culture, go here.

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Chris Smit

I'm passionate about Cultural Difference. I have been helping organizations save time and money when they work Internationally for the last 19 years. I have had the fortunate opportunity to hold lectures, workshops, and consulting projects on this subject World Wide. It has made me understand my own culture much better, and appreciate the differences around the world.
I have a Master's Degree in Organisational Psychology and have lived in the USA, the Netherlands and, currently, in Belgium.
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