Once Upon A Time : ZINEDINE ZIDANE , The Guy From Marseilles . A Bedtime Story


Hello Moms and Dads ! Here’s a bedtime story for your little ones! Happy-end guaranteed!

Once upon a time, on a hot summer day ( June 23, 1972) a baby boy was born at La Castellane, a crime-ridden housing development in Marseille, the famous south  of France port, founded by the Greeks, two thousand years ago. He was Smail’s and Malika’s Zidane fifth child and was named Zinedine Yazid (Zizou). Both parents were of Algerian-Kabyle descent, who emigrated from the village of Aguemoune in the Berber speaking region of Kabylie in northern Algeria in 1953 before the start of the Algerian war,  looking for a better life in France.


He wasn’t born in a rich household, his father was working as an overnight departement store watchman and his mother was a housewife, so the family had to live in a small flat, so small that it wasn’t possible for the seven of them to sit together for a meal. Nevertheless, both Smail and Malika did their best to shelter their children( Madjid, Farid, Noureddine and Lila) from some dangerous situations like drugs and high crime.

The little boy started playing football at the age of five but unlike his team mates “Zizou” was 100% focused on the game, determined not to fall for any  other distractions; alas school was one of them ! The youngster’s character and determination gave nightmares to his teachers…” your son, is not focused at class, but he makes his vues known to everyone” told a teacher to his father, before adding ” he’s really tiresome but we forgive him everything: he’s so cute!”

While for his migrants friends, football was just a sport to pass out time, for Zizou himself, football was an open door to a better life; he knew already that there was money to win and a good way to help his family ! It didn’t take long…he registered at US Saint-Henri Footballclub (1981) No more football games with the neighbourhood’s children on the Place Tatane, an 80-by-12 yard plaza that served as the main square of the housing complex; his footballer’s life had started at the age of ten !

Life was not easy for a migrant footballer, he soon had to face racial slurs and mockery about his ghetto origins not only from his opponents but also from his team mates; he was a smart guy, so he turned a deaf ear to them but it wasn’t that easy for the young boy had a fiery temperament; nevertheless he understood very quickly that being a Beur( son of Arabs immigrants) involves not only a constant struggle to prove his affinity with his native country France, but also hard work. Zizou did both.

A new club, SO Septémes-les-Vallons (1983-1986) and he was ready for a bigger challenge; his outstanding talent with the ball and technique brought him in the notice of AS Cannes scout Jean Varraud who recommended him to the training center director of the club, but instead of a six-week stay, Zizou spent four years at Cannes.

These were difficult times for the teenager…cut off from his family, sleeping with the other trainees in a common dormitory, he took the option of fighting those who abused him. This reaction cost him and was obliged to spent most of his initial senior career weeks on cleaning duty as a punishment for punching players who mocked where he came from.

What future was awaiting for this boy when no kind fairies  were trooping around his baby cot, a boy from a poor migrant family, facing abuse and racism in his every day life ? Funny enough the best of the best: after leaving the infamous dormitory he took a room in a family pension, where he fell in love with the tenant’s daughter, Véronique. They married, had four boys, all of them talented footballers like their dad ! Zizou’s name is now world wide known, for he won everything a footballer had ever dreamed to and icing on the cake he won three consecutive Champions League as Manager of Real Madrid ! Maybe the fairies (and hard work) were standing beside his cot, after all and yes, needless to say that they all lived happy ever after !


Categories: Biography

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