Zidane could lose Golden Ball, FIFA chief Blatter says

July 12, 2006

MILAN, Italy -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter says Zinedine Zidane could be stripped of his Golden Ball award for the best player at the World Cup due to violent conduct.

"The winner of the award is not decided by FIFA, but by an international commission of journalists," Blatter said in Wednesday's La Repubblica. "That said, FIFA's executive committee has the right, and the duty, to intervene when faced with behavior contrary to the ethic of the sport."

Zidane head-butted Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest after the two exchanged words on the field in extra time of Sunday's World Cup final. He was sent off and Italy won its fourth title on penalties.

FIFA's disciplinary committee opened an inquiry Tuesday into Zidane's behavior. Such inquiries are routine when a player receives a red card in an international match. World soccer's governing body has declined to say whether Materazzi's conduct also is being investigated.

Zidane was awarded the Golden Ball on Monday, ahead of Italy's Fabio Cannavaro and Andrea Pirlo. The ballot box was open until after the end of the final, making it unclear how many votes were cast before or after the incident.

Blatter said he was "very hurt" by Zidane's violent reaction and that "to see him act like that made me feel bad, for him and for fair play."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press