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Just how did referee ‘see’ Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt?

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THESE days we have video referees to track down every misdemeanour on a pitch, but for several long moments — several minutes, in fact — it seemed that Zinedine Zidane would get away with his headbutt on Marco Materazzi deep into extra time in the 2006 final.

For those of us sitting in Berlin’s Olympiastadion that night — in an age before Twitter — there was initially only mystery as to why Materazzi lay prone on the turf, miles away from the ball.

What was the moment: ‘Zidane’s moment of madness’

Which World Cup was it? Germany, 2006

Match between: France and Italy

Only when TV replays kicked in — almost a full minute later — did Zidane’s shockingly violent response to an insult about his sister become clear.

Part of that shock was the identity of the assailant: one of the greatest, most balletic players of all time, who had come out of retirement to lead his country to the final.

The least demonstrative of men, Zidane was on the brink of adding a second World Cup triumph in three tournaments to further glorify his career.

Even as the realisation spread among fans and viewers of what Zidane had done, the referee, Horacio Elizondo, struggled to retain order on the pitch.

Finally he briefly took counsel from one linesman before showing Zidane the red card.

Except … both linesman later admitted they had not seen the incident.

Elizondo would claim that fourth official Luis Medina Cantalejo told him over his head set that he had seen the headbutt, and conspiracy theorists still claim the Spaniard “saw it” via a pitchside monitor.

That would not have been admissible, of course, and FIFA later insisted that Cantalejo saw the headbutt with his own eyes only.

Why on earth shouldn’t we believe an organisation with such a track record of truth-telling as FIFA?
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