Materazzi puts headbutt in rearview mirror

Italy's Marco Materazzi lies injured during the 2006 World Cup final after a headbutt from France's Zinedine Zidane.

Marco Materazzi wanted to find somewhere where he wouldn’t be reminded of the moment he entered World Cup notoriety.

So he went to Colorado, Nevada and Southern California.

You remember Materazzi. He is the Italian defender who was headbutted so hard by Zinedine Zidane in the waning moments of the 2006 World Cup final that it would be a surprise if he didn’t have an imprint of the French superstar’s head on his chest.

Zidane was red-carded, Italy won the tournament on penalty kicks and Materazzi left with a winner’s medal. But few champions have felt more like a loser after the 36-year-old admitted the international outcry over the Zidane incident ruined what should have been the greatest moment of his long career.

That is why, as another World Cup enters its final week, you won’t find Materazzi anywhere near South Africa. Or Italy. Or any other nation where soccer is an all-consuming passion.

“I will not see any games and I know where I’ll be for the World Cup,” said Materazzi in a recent interview. “I’ll be in a camper van in the United States. I will go touring with my friends and later I will go to Los Angeles with my family.”

Materazzi flew to the United States three weeks ago and, as promised, took a camper van with a group of friends. They drove through Colorado and Nevada, spending nights far removed from civilization. This week, he was seen at an upscale hotel in Santa Monica, Calif.

Zidane, meanwhile, journeyed to South Africa and has been a visible presence at several matches. He participated in a media conference early in the tournament and has never expressed genuine remorse for the headbutt that tainted his legacy as one of soccer’s all-time greats.

Materazzi admits he uttered a verbal insult that mentioned Zidane’s sister in the lead-up to the 2006 incident, which came with just minutes of extra time remaining and with the score locked at 1-1. But he won damages from three British newspapers who claimed he had used a racial epithet.

Even two years after the scandal, Materazzi publicly expressed hope that he and Zidane could resolve their dispute. Now, though, he appears to have given up on that.

“I don’t take Zidane seriously anymore,” Materazzi said. “He keeps talking but there is still missing one word — ‘sorry.’ But now it’s not necessary anymore.

“If I was him, I would have personally said sorry without blowing things up in the media. But right now I’m not waiting anymore for a forced excuse.”

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