Celebrated as an ode to defeat, a concept that seems to fit its location in front of the modern art museum of Paris, the 16-foot statue of Zinedine Zidane delivering his fateful headbutt to the chest of Italy’s Marco Materazzi has nevertheless caused something of a stir. Adel Abdessemed’s work, while stunning to see, is a depressing reminder of a moment French football would prefer to forget. With that in mind, more than 30 French football district presidents have signed an open letter demanding the statue be taken down.
According to the district presidents, via Michel Keff, head of a national association of football district presidents, the statue runs contrary to the ethics of sports and the values put forth by thousands of football coaches and educators across France. They also believe the statue minimizes the immense contributions to the sport by Zidane himself, and is needlessly provocative.
The director of the museum, Alain Seban, is shocked. Shocked to his core. Shocked shocked shocked. Why would anyone have a problem with a 16-foot statue celebrating the most painful loss in recent French football memory? Mon dieu.
“I am shocked by this demand. This is nothing but a call for censorship. I can’t believe that they would prevent artists from creating by invoking the ethics of sport. Art is another way of looking at the world, and it is my job to guarantee the artist’s freedom.”*
Clearly, Seban and the Centre Pompidou have no interest in removing the statue, no matter what a bunch of football administrators think. On the one hand, Seban has an excellent point about the freedom of artists to express themselves without fear of censorship. On the other hand, it’s a giant statue of Zidane ruining France’s chances in the World Cup Final and makes French people sad.
*Please forgive the imperfect translation