The match was sold out. There were 70,000 people at the stadium and there were a billion people watching the match in televisions around the world. My wife and I we were at the stadium. So where many other friends. 999,930,000 people however were not. They watched World Cup final on TVs, and the paradox is that both spectators and TV viewers saw a very similar game until Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi, an act that was censored at the stadium´s TV monitors.
What followed was a total disconnect between what was happening at the stadium and what was happening on TV. My calculation is that Italians plus French did not make more than 20% of the attendance of the Stadium, and in that 20% it was 3 to 1 Italians. But the other 80% seemed to be mostly with the Italians until the expulsion of Zidane. The Italians had played a good first half although the second half was dominated by the French.
Moments before his red card Zidane had almost scored a beautiful goal celebrated by most football fans. So not knowing what had happened and with the stadium TV sets censoring Zidane´s headbut, the public went MAD over their hero´s expulsion. During the last minutes of play and the penalties uninformed spectators simply HATED the Italians. The Italians were booed every time they got the ball and by the time they shot the penalties the public was furious against them. Booo! Booo! Non stop booing all but the hard core Italian fans were against the Italians. But when I finally saw the video of what Zidane actually did, I felt cheated.
Why did they not show that video at the stadium? While I was rooting for the French, because of my wife, I was one of those angry fans who could not comprehend what had happened, why Zidane had been expelled and I ended up hating the referee, who happens to be a compatriot of mine and had acted reasonably. And not only were we cheated at the stadium, but so was the whole Italian team. Much fewer people than normal stayed to celebrate the coronation of the Italians. More people clapped when the French got their medals than when the Italians got the Cup.
Also, interestingly, the anti Italian sentiment was so strong at the stadium that it is a miracle that the Italians, who normally do poorly in penalties, did so well. Every time they shot people booed them. And the lies went on. Not only were we lied to at the stadium, but close to a billion people were lied to on TV as to the mood at the field after the Italian win. Spectators were disappointed, they felt cheated by a referee they could not understand. TVs however, showed a party mood that was mostly non existent. Nobody likes to lose, but in this case everyone felt that the Italians had stolen their victory. TV camera´s focused on the few Italians who were celebrating while most non French spectators would have celebrated alongside the Italians if they had not felt so angry over a Zidane they deemed a martyr.
It is hard to exagerate what this wrongly perceived unfair expulsion of a football hero in the last 5 minutes of his career did to the general mood in the stadium. I don´t think it´s an exageration to say that ignorance ruined the celebration in the field. Personally, I think that FIFA who manages the TV scenes made a huge mistake not showing the headbut to us in the field. The game had been a good until then, people were excited. But then the match turned into an incomprehensible rumour mill amplified by numerous sms going around that people were getting from friends watching TV at home and saying that something really bad had happened. What? Everyone asked in the field. What could be so bad?
My take on all this is that FIFA, which in itself is a pretty undemocratic organization, managed this crisis in a very undemocratic manner. Why did they deprive us of essential information? Many people talk about changing the rules of football, a larger goal, less players are among commongly announced projects. But before doing that what about showing people in the field the same images that people see at home? What is the point of having huge TVs inside the stadium but censoring key footage? More transparency would be a good way to start changing the rules for the better.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars