Former Real Madrid and France soccer star Zinedine Zidane says he regrets headbutting Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final, but he'd rather die than apologize to the Italian defender.
In an interview with leading Spanish daily El Pais published Monday, Zidane recalled the infamous incident with a sense of shame — but he felt none toward Materazzi.
"After the game, I went into the dressing room and told them, 'Forgive me. This doesn't change anything, but sorry everyone,"' Zidane recalled of the moments after the game.
"But to him I can't. Never, never," Zidane added. "It would be to dishonor me .… I'd rather die."
The match was Zidane's last after a sparkling career in which he became one of the game's most respected players. In the 20th minute of extra time, Materazzi insulted Zidane, who responded by headbutting the Italian defender violently in the chest. He got sent off and watched France lose the match from the sideline.
"Of course I reproach myself," Zidane told El Pais. "But if I say sorry, I would also be admitting that what he did was normal. And for me it was not normal.
"Things happen on the pitch. It's happened to me many times. But I could not stand it that time," Zidane said. "My mother was sick. She was in hospital. This people didn't know .… But it was a bad moment. More than once they had insulted my mother and I never responded."
Materazzi recently told Italy's La Republica paper he was still waiting for Zidane to apologize and that he was still so angry over the incident that he won't even watch this year's tournament in South Africa.
"If it was Kaka, an ordinary guy, a good guy, of course I would have apologized. But to this one!" Zidane said. "If I ask forgiveness of him, I lack respect for myself and for all those I love with all my heart."
Zidane won two Serie A titles with Italy's Juventus and two La Liga titles and a Champions League with Real Madrid, along with the 1998 World Cup. He was voted FIFA World Player of the Year three times.
Now 37, he acts as an informal adviser to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.