Algeria witnesses Zidane's unexpected end

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> In the Algerian mountains where Zinedine Zidane's parents grew up, fans gathered only to witness the star's unexpected end on soccer's biggest stage.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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Aguemoune, Algeria:

In the Algerian mountains where Zinedine Zidane's parents grew up, fans gathered in "Cafe Zizou" to watch the French star's farewell show on soccer's biggest stage. It wasn't what they expected. Atmanne Chelouah carried off a life-size cardboard cutout of Zidane after seeing him red-carded for head-butting Italian player Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final on Sunday. "We are very disappointed," he said. "He should have kept his cool." Zidane is a national hero in Algeria, despite being born in France. Many say that it is thanks to him that fans here cheer on the country that ruled Algeria for 132 years and fought eight bloody years to suppress its independence movement. "Because of him we love France," Zidane's cousin Rabah said outside the family home, a new, modest structure in Aguemoune, 250 kilometers east of capital Algiers. Speaking by phone on Monday morning, he said that the family was sad about the match, and that it was unlike Zidane to react in such a way. "Zizou normally does not hit people," he said. Materazzi "must have said something serious". Even Algeria President Abdelaziz Bouteflika lavished praise on Zidane, referring to "the beautiful, courageous, intelligent and exceptional career you built". As for the incident, Bouteflika said it undoubtedly was sparked by a "serious aggression" and "you reacted first as a man of honor before submitting to the verdict without blinking". Cousin Rabah said the family was pleased Zidane was voted the Cup's best player despite the outburst. "That gives us some relief," he said. Fans went silent inside the Cafe de l'Union - known locally as "Cafe Zizou" after the midfielder's nickname - when Zidane was ordered off the field. But they said Zidane's legacy as one of soccer's greats was assured. "Zizou will stay in my heart until the end," said 19-year-old Fares Tadgenant, choking back tears outside the bar, which is perched on a hill in the village of Taguemount facing Aguemoune. One face stood out among the gathering crowd: Djamel Zidane, who bears a striking resemblance to his famous brother. Nine years older than Zinedine, he was in Aguemoune on holiday. Though he predicted a French victory, he said his brother was "tired". Zizou telephoned his brother before the game, "saying he would do all he could, that he would play his usual match". Zidane's parents left for France shortly before Algeria's brutal war of independence broke out in 1954, and Zidane grew up in a tough neighborhood outside Marseille. Zidane came to Aguemoune as a child during summer holidays, where he played soccer in the street with the other children. "We were in a group of four or five children, he was on his own," said Rabah. "But he beat us. All by himself he scored goals against us, he dribbled past us." Zizou's last visit was in 1986, but people here hope to see him return following his retirement from soccer. As he watched the final unfold, 24-year-old Farid Haddadi said Algerians were proud of Zidane because he had raised the country's profile. "Thanks to Zidane, Algeria has started to be respected by other countries," he said. (AP)

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