| Marco Materazzi, just after being head-butted by Zinedine Zidane during the World Cup final
Rome: Italy defender Marco Materazzi has broken his silence over the verbal exchange that led to his violent World Cup final clash with French star Zinedine Zidane.
Materazzi was sent crashing to the turf by a Zidane head-butt near the end of extra-time of the July 9 final in Berlin following a verbal altercation.
Mystery has surrounded the exact nature of the abuse directed at Zidane by Materazzi ever since the incident, which subsequently earned the Inter Milan centre-half a two-match ban from world governing body Fifa.
But in an interview with a newspaper here on Tuesday, Materazzi revealed it was a remark he made about Zidane’s sister that provoked the French captain’s moment of madness.
Materazzi said that when Zidane offered to give him his France jersey after the final whistle in response to persistent shirt-tugging by the Italian, he had replied: “I would prefer your sister.”
Materazzi insisted, however, that he should not blamed for sparking the incident. “I did not cause it,” he told the paper. “I answered verbally with a provocation to defend myself.
“Yes, I was tugging at his shirt, but when he said to me scornfully ‘If you want my shirt so much I’ll give it to you afterwards,’ is that not a provocation' I answered that I’d prefer his sister, it’s true.”
“It’s not a particularly nice thing to say, I recognise that. But loads of players say worse things. I didn’t even know he had a sister before all this happened,” added Materazzi, who is suspended for Italy’s Euro 2008 qualifying rematch with France in Paris on Wednesday.
The Italy defender said that while he had told Fifa he was willing to make a gesture of reconciliation with Zidane, he was not going to apologise.
“He has not apologised to me and I certainly don’t have to apologise to him. If anything, I owe apologies to his sister, although I swear, before all this mess I didn’t even know Zidane had a sister,” he said.
Materazzi, however, feels that the two could put the incident behind them.
“If peace can be made after terrible wars can Zidane and I not make peace' A peace between men, without much publicity, certainly yes.
“The door of my house will always be open to him and if he wants, Zidane knows how to find out my address,” said Materazzi.
Zidane, who has retired as a player, was fined 7,500 Swiss francs ($6,014) and handed a three-match ban by Fifa’s five-man disciplinary committee.
As he is no longer a player, he offered to undertake three days of community service on Fifa’s behalf as part of their humanitarian activities, which the committee accepted.
Zidane has never specified what Materazzi said to him and has pointedly refused to apologise to his opponent.
Asked on July 12 what exactly Materazzi had said, Zidane would only offer that it was “very personal and concerned his mother and his sister.”
France captain Patrick Vieira thinks the apologies should go both ways.
“I think Zidane is waiting for Materazzi to apologise also for the insults he used,” Vieira said in Clairefontaine.
Vieira, who is Materazzi’s teammate at Inter Milan, said he chatted with the Italy defender before leaving to join the France squad.
“He told me he is disappointed not to be here,” Vieira said. “He’s a very cheerful guy, but he loves to wind people up. Sometimes you need to know when to stop.”