VARIOUS: SPORTS YEARENDER - Zidane's abrupt fall from grace mirrors the light and shade of a troubled sporting year
VARIOUS: SPORTS YEARENDER - Zidane's abrupt fall from grace mirrors the light and shade of a troubled sporting year
- Title: VARIOUS: SPORTS YEARENDER - Zidane's abrupt fall from grace mirrors the light and shade of a troubled sporting year
- Date: 30th December 2006
- Summary: MEXICAN WEARING SOMBRERO IN MEXICO CITY
- Embargoed: 13th January 2007 22:42
- Topics: Sport
- Reuters ID: LVAKHXS7HU7OL1HLI287M3NTTZI
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: SOCCER
What passed through Zinedine Zidane's mind in the dying moments of a career that had taken him from the backstreets of Marseille to a second World Cup final will be the biggest sporting mystery of 2006.
Certainly something snapped 10 minutes before the final whistle at the Berlin Olympic stadium. After a brief altercation the French captain suddenly head-butted Marco Materazzi in the chest and was sent from the field.
Although the final itself will go into the record books as second only to the 1990 final as the worst ever played, Italy's victory over France brought the curtain down on one of the best tournaments ever staged, despite some negative thinking from coaches and continual cheating from players.
Generally speaking most of the 32 teams that started the competition produced some excellent football among some very mundane fare.
One problem was the premature exit of the Brazilians. Brazil traditionally bring flair and flamboyance to the World Cup. This time their big names failed to sparkle.
The defending champions never really convinced, despite starting the competition with four straight wins to establish an all-time World Cup record of 11 successive victories.
Ronaldo also scored three times to set a record of 15 goals in three World Cups but their reign ended when France beat them 1-0 in the quarter-finals.
Most disappointing of all was Ronaldinho, who came with the reputation of being the world's best player but was almost anonymous in Brazil's five matches.
England, who had been widely tipped to reach at least the last four, also went out at the same stage, a hapless campaign ended by another defeat in a penalty shootout to Portugal.
Of the much-vaunted youthful talents of England's Wayne Rooney and Argentina's Lionel Messi, there was little to see - though both had suffered serious injuries before the finals.
Argentina graced the finals early on with some scintillating soccer but paid the price for lack of adventure against Germany and went out on penalties at the quarter-final stage.
Germany were desperate to repeat their home triumph of 1974, and although they failed, coach Juergen Klinsmann won a nation over by playing fast, attacking exciting football with a team lifted up by a wave of emotion.
Miroslav Klose finished as the tournament's top scorer with five goals and although Germany had to settle for third place they played an enormously significant role in making the World Cup so successful.
Italy's 2-0 extra-time semi-final win over Germany in Dortmund was probably the classic match of the tournament.
After their failures at the 2002 World Cup and the European Championship in Portugal two years ago, no-one realistically expected France to meet Italy in the final.
But France, somehow rediscovering the self-belief if not the grandeur of their World Cup winning year of 1998, made it all the way to the end, largely on the astonishing reincarnation of Zidane as one of soccer's all-time greats.
Playing the last match of his outstanding career in the World Cup final, makes his one of soccer's greatest comebacks, even if it ended on such a low note.
The final itself was reflected the tournament, starting with great promise but ending in disappointment.
It was a sad farewell for Zidane on the greatest stage of all.
He graced it by scoring an audacious penalty off the crossbar and then finished in disgrace, butting Italy's goalscorer Materazzi in extra time and getting sent off.
That he was clearly provoked by Materazzi was a reflection of the cynical nature of play at what could and should have been one of the best tournaments ever.
By the time Italy were crowned world champions following the penalty shootout, Zidane was back in the dressing room, his glittering career ending in a stunning anti-climax.
The World Cup in Germany was as much a festival as it was a football tournament, with organisers going further than ever before to bring the excitement of the competition out of the stadiums and into towns and cities across the country.
Germans in paper garlands of black, red and gold, Mexicans sporting sombreros, Brazilians in bikinis -- millions gathered at Fan Fests in towns around the host nation to celebrate and watch the games on big screens.
The sun shone, food and drink were cheap and the atmosphere was peaceful as fears that the Fan Fests would be the ideal battlefield for rival hooligans proved unfounded.
The organisation in Germany was world class, and Berlin's innovative Fan Mile where millions enjoyed themselves showed a new, young, smiling German face to a world gripped by football fever.
But Zidane's abrupt fall from grace mirrored the light and shade of a troubled sporting year.
Italy's path to their fourth World Cup took place against the backdrop of a match-fixing scandal unfolding in the Italian courts.
When the Italian season opened two weeks late, Juventus had been relegated to Serie B for the first time in their 109-year history on minus 17 points -- a penalty later reduced to minus nine. Juventus's bid to make a speedy return to Serie A got off to a bad start when they were held to a 1-1 draw by 10-man Rimini. But by the beginning of December they headed the table.
Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina were permitted to stay in the top division with heavy points penalties, while AC Milan were docked eight points, but allowed to remain in the Champions League.
Inter Milan became champions for the first time since 1989 as Juve were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 titles.
Meanwhile, FIFA are becoming increasingly concerned by wealthy men buying up clubs abroad and the balance of power in domestic leagues becoming ever more restricted to the rich, powerful few.
While Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have been bought, or could be bought, by foreign tycoons, Barcelona is one club unlikely ever to be poached by an overseas mogul. They crowned a triumphant year by winning the Spanish League and Champions League and are looking to add to those titles by winning the FIFA Club World Championship in Tokyo this month.
In the Champions League final, Barcelona scored twice late on to stun 10-man Arsenal 2-1 at the Stade de France.
Despite having goalkeeper Jens Lehmann sent off in the 18th minute, Arsenal took the lead with a Sol Campbell header.
But goals from man-of-the-match Samuel Eto'o and substitute defender Juliano Belletti gave Barcelona the European Cup for the second time in their history.
The UEFA Cup also ended up in Spain as Sevilla beat Middlesbrough 4-0 in Eindhoven.
Real Madrid were again prepared to spend heavily to keep pace with Barca, signing World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro from demoted Juventus and Ruud van Nistelrooy from Manchester United.
In England, Chelsea retained the Premiership title and then Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich bolstered his squad even further by buying Ukrainian striker Andrei Shevchenko, German midfielder Michael Ballack and England defender Ashley Cole.
Before Ballack's departure, Bayern Munich had become the first club successfully to defend a Bundesliga and German Cup double.
In the Copa Libertadores final, Internacional beat fellow-Brazilians Sï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½o Paulo 4-3 on aggregate to become South American champions for the first time ever.
Turin staged the first of the year's two global events -- the extravaganza on snow and ice constituting the Winter Olympics.
If the slogan 'Passion Lives Here' sometimes rang hollow, with locals more excited by soccer than ski jumping, thousands of revellers gathered nightly in Turin for medals ceremonies, while action on the slopes and in the arenas provided lasting memories.
Austria dominated Alpine skiing with a record 14 medals. Michaela Dorfmeister finally struck gold in her final Olympics with victories in the downhill and super-G. Benjamin Raich won the giant slalom and led an Austrian clean sweep in the slalom.
Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who had overcome a broken ankle and ligament damage, became the first Alpine skier to win four consecutive Olympic golds with victory in the super-G at the age of 34. Half an hour later, Croatia's Janica Kostelic, who had endured nearly a dozen knee operations, matched Aamodt's feat with her fourth career gold in the combined.
No single athlete dominated in Turin, although Canadian women's speed skater Cindy Klassen picked up five medals.
Germany topped the medals table, with biathlete Michael Greis taking three golds.
Frenchman Antoine Deneriaz rocketed down Sestriere's Kandahar piste to take the men's Alpine skiing downhill, the showcase race of the Games and then drink the champagne he had already put on ice.
Russian Yevgeny Plushenko etched his name alongside the greats by obliterating his rivals in the men's figure skating.
But Shizuka Arakawa captured Japan's first figure skating gold after favourite Irina Slutskaya, aiming to complete a Russian sweep of all four titles, tumbled and managed only bronze.
As at the Athens summer Games two years ago, an extraordinary saga straight from the pages of a crime thriller distracted attention from the sporting spectacle.
While the world's winter athletes played out their dreams on snow and ice, the unwelcome presence of banned Austrian cross-country coach Walter Mayer triggered a doping furore that refused to die down.
Midnight raids led to the discovery of syringes and blood transfusion equipment and talk of illegal methods. Two Austrian athletes fled while Mayer, banned from the Olympics after a blood doping case in 2002, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after crashing his car into a police roadblock in Austria.
The recriminations will rumble on, but doping was not the scourge it had been in previous Games. Only one competitor, Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva, was stripped of a medal and that was for a test before the Games.
At the closing ceremony, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge pledged to pursue the war against doping with unrelenting vigour. Judged by the events of 2006, it is a fight with no end in sight.
In July, it was announced that Tour de France winner Floyd Landis and Olympic 100 metres champion Justin Gatlin had tested positive for elevated levels of the male sex hormone testosterone.
Landis's failed test followed an astonishing win in the 17th stage of Le Tour after the American had apparently dropped out of contention on the previous day. Landis, who was sacked by his team, remains determined to prove his innocence at an American Arbitration Association hearing early next year. If his appeal fails, the 30-year-old American will be banned for two years and will become the first Tour champion to be stripped of his title. Spanaird Oscar Pereiro, who was second overall in the Tour, would then be declared the winner.
Landis had provided a fairytale victory in a Tour that had threatened to become engulfed in scandal before it started when nine riders, including 1997 winner Jan Ullrich and Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso, were suspended by their teams because they were implicated in a Spanish doping investigation. German Ullrich and Italy's Basso denied all allegations of doping.
The Spanish Cycling Federation abandoned disciplinary proceedings against all the riders in October and Basso, at least, will be back in action in 2007 after joining Lance Armstrong's old Discovery Channel team.
The legendary Armstrong, who retired after winning his seventh Tour de France in 2005, achieved another personal goal when he broke three hours in the New York marathon. The American's time was two hours 59 minutes and 36 seconds and he finished 856th.
Because of Gatlin's positive test, track fans have been denied the showdowns they craved against Jamaican Asafa Powell, who equalled his own 100 metres world record twice this year.
With the ink barely dry on the Landis headlines, world 100 and 200 metres champion Gatlin revealed on July 29 that he had tested positive for testosterone or its precursors in April.
The sprinter has been suspended for up to eight years pending an appeal.
Powell and American Sanya Richards, who was unbeaten over 400 metres all season, were the IAAF Athletes of the Year.
The pair, together with U.S. 400 metre runner Jeremy Wariner, also completed perfect Golden League seasons to scoop 250,000 U.S. dollars each.
China's Liu Xiang posted a new men's 110 metres hurdles world mark of
88 seconds -- a record he had previously shared with Britain's Colin Jackson.
Probably the most remarkable feat by any athlete in 2006 was achieved by ultra marathon runner Dean Karnazes.
The American achieved a milestone in endurance running in November when he completed the New York marathon -- his 50th marathon in 50 consecutive days run in 50 U.S. states. His coach, Chris Carmichael, also coached Lance Armstrong.
Doping even sullied cricket, a sport where beer is the traditional 'drug' of choice.
Pakistan pace bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were banned by their home country in November after testing positive for nandrolone. But they were cleared a month later when a Pakistani tribunal ruled they had not received sufficient warning that supplements they were taking could be contaminated by the banned steroid.
Australians were at the heart of two of the biggest cricketing stories of 2006, with controversial umpire Darrell Hair banned after Pakistan blamed him squarely for their forfeiture of the Oval test in August.
Pakistan became the first country in test history to forfeit a match for refusing to take the field after tea on the fourth day against England. Hair -- no stranger to controversy -- and fellow umpire Billy Doctrove had penalised Pakistan for alleged ball tampering, docking them five runs and changing the ball.
In a move which divided world cricket, Hair was sacked from the International Cricket Council's (ICC) elite panel of umpires.
Pakistan captain Inzaman-ul-Haq was cleared of ball tampering, although the ICC banned him for four one-day internationals for bringing the game into disrepute.
Australia's world champion team proved the strongest of the year, winning eight out of eight tests and clinching the Champions Trophy, the only one-day title to have previously eluded them. They beat the West Indies in the final.
Captain Ricky Ponting, named ICC Player of the Year, has led Australia on an astonishing streak of 13 victories in 14 tests since last year's 2-1 Ashes loss in England.
With two Ashes tests remaining before the year-end and Australia 2-0 up in the series, the Tasmanian has amassed 1,249 runs including seven centuries in just eight tests.
Personal tragedy scarred Tiger Woods, who lost his father Earl in May after a long battle with cancer. On his eventual return to competition, Woods missed the cut at the U.S. Open. His consequent victory at the British Open was a testament to extraordinary willpower, technique and the ability to focus exclusively on the job at hand.
The tears flowed as he came to terms with his 11th major title and the first since his father's death. A month later, he cruised home by five strokes in the PGA Championship, moving past fellow American Walter Hagen into outright second place in the all-time major standings, with only Jack Nicklaus, on 18, ahead of him.
Phil Mickelson made a storming start to the year en route to a second Masters success and Australia's Geoff Ogilvy broke through at the highest level by winning the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
Going into the final round of the U.S. Open, Mickelson was well placed to claim a third successive major victory but squandered the opportunity with an erratic drive and a double-bogey six at the 72nd hole.
Ogilvy, also benefitting from a lapse by Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, was able to celebrate his major breakthrough.
A rare failure for Woods came at the K Club in Ireland in September, when he and his Americans team mates fell to a third successive defeat by Europe in the biennial Ryder Cup.
Although Woods was the leading U.S. performer with three points out of a possible five, the Americans were thumped by a record-equalling margin of 18-1/2 points to 9-1/2. The event was played out under a huge swell of emotion with not just Woods but also compatriot Chris di Marco and Ulsterman Darren Clarke suffering family bereavements in 2006.
Di Marco had lost his mother earlier in the year and Clarke's Ryder Cup win came just weeks after the death of his wife Heather from cancer.
On the European Tour, Padraig Harrington pipped Paul Casey to win the Order of Merit.
Mexico's Lorena Ochoa ended Annika Sorenstam's four-year role as the 'Tiger' of the women's game when she took over the LPGA Tour money crown and also clinched Player of the Year honours with six Tour victories.
Michael Schumacher chose Grand Prix racing's centennial year to announce his retirement at the age of 37 after winning the most ever victories, pole positions and points.
After trailing Fernando Alonso all season, Schumacher looked like he might end his Formula One career with a flourish. But engine failure and a puncture in the final two races gifted the Spaniard his second World Drivers title.
Sebastien Loeb was cruising to victory in the World Rally Championship when he fell and broke his arm in a mountain bike accident in September. The Frenchman has not raced since, but clinched the title when sole rival Marcus Gronholm of Finland finished fifth in Perth.
Nicky Hayden was crowned MotoGP champion following one of the most dramatic ends to the season in memory.
The American lost the championship lead to Valentino Rossi when teammate Dani Pedrosa took him out in the penultimate race, the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Then, with an eight-point lead and on course for his eighth world championship, Rossi slid off in the final race in Valencia. Hayden's third place was enough to give him the title.
Spain's Jorge Lorenzo won his first 250cc world championship when he finished fourth in the final grand prix of the season. Title rival Andrea Dovizioso, who was 13 points behind the 19-year-old Mallorcan at the start of the race, could only finish seventh and had to settle for runners-up spot in the final standings.
Spain's Alvaro Bautista clinched the 125cc world title in style with a commanding victory in the Australian Grand Prix.
Australia's Troy Bayliss won his second World Superbike crown.
His cream Wimbledon blazer got the fashionistas buzzing. Yet it was a streak as hard as diamond running thorough him that made Roger Federer almost invincible for the third season in succession.
Certainly the Swiss maestro would also win awards for artistry, revealing an exquisite blend of power and touch to win the Australian, Wimbledon and U.S. tennis championships.
Spaniard Rafael Nadal on a clay court at the French Open denied Federer the first grand slam since Rod Laver in 1969.
Such is the nine-times grand slam champion's dominance that even if he puts his feet up until the end of February, Federer has hoarded enough points to break Jimmy Connors's record of 160 consecutive weeks as world number one.
Despite the vociferous support of Diego Maradona in the Moscow crowd, Argentina were beaten in the Davis Cup final by Russia. Marat Safin won the deciding rubber with victory over Jose Acasuso.
Like Federer, Justine Henin-Hardenne charged into all four grand slam finals. But the Belgian had to make do with a solitary success at the French Open.
Amelie Mauresmo shed the tag of being the 'most talented player never to have won a grand slam' when she triumphed at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
The Frenchwoman won her first major silverware in Melbourne but was denied the chance of engineering the winning shot when Henin-Hardenne retired midway through the final.
With no American woman reaching the semi-finals of the grand slams, Mauresmo led the European charge.
Mauresmo knew she still had a point to prove about her suspect nerves and silenced her critics in July when she again defeated the Belgian to claim her second slam at Wimbledon.
Henin-Hardenne also came off second best to Maria Sharapova in the U.S. Open final but was rewarded for her consistency when she won a three-way tussle with the Russian and Mauresmo for the year-end number one spot.
Zheng Jie and Yan Zi became China's first grand slam winners, winning the women's doubles in Australia and at Wimbledon.
Henin-Hardenne was forced to quit midway through another final in September, the Fed Cup doubles, which handed the women's team title to Italy.
Belgium had pinned their hopes on Henin-Hardenne after Kim Clijsters, who played in both of her country's victories en route to this year's final, was forced out of action for two months with a recurrence of a wrist injury.
The year also saw a couple of unlikely comebacks and a significant retirement from the game.
Former world number one Marina Hingis returned to top-flight tennis after a three-year lay-off. The Swiss decided to leave the circuit at the end of 2002 at the age of 22.
Hingis had been being plagued by ankle and foot injuries for three years, but returned to action on a full-time basis at the start of this season. Her current singles ranking is seventh.
John McEnroe celebrated his 47th birthday with a return to the ATP Tour in February. Having lost none of his famed "competitive edge", the American teamed up with SwedeJonas Bjorkman, to win his first tournament in 12 years.
Aged 36, Andre Agassi listened to his creaking bones and bid an emotional farewell at the U.S. Open. With eight grand slams to his name, his retirement signalled the end of the greatest generation of American men's tennis.
OTHER SPORTING HEADLINES
Australian Ian Thorpe, at the age of 24, announced his retirement from competitive swimming.
In November,Thorpe told a packed news conference broadcast live on Australian television that he had decided to quit because swimming was no longer the most important thing in his life.
Thorpe is regarded as one of the greatest swimmers of all time, winning 11 world titles, five Olympic gold medals and setting 13 individual long-course world records.
Worn down by the constant grind of training, he took a year off after winning the 200 metres and 400m freestyle titles at the 2004 Athens Olympics, but his comeback plans were thwarted by illness and waning motivation.
As expected, China were almost totally dominant on the Badminton court.
Apart from winning the Thomas and Uber Cups - the world team titles - four of the five world titles went to Chinese players, with Lin Dan and Xie Xingfang winning the men's and women's singles.
Zara Phillips, the granddaughter of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, became the World equestrian champion in 2006. Phillips, whose mother Princess Anne rode for Britain in the 1976 Olympics, won the individual gold on her horse Toytown at the World Equestrian Games in Germany and helped Britain win a team silver.
In basketball, Spain won the world championship final with a resounding 70-47 victory over Greece, despite being without star centre Paul Gasol, who had a broken foot.
SPORT IN NORTH AMERICA
Standout guard Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat took their first NBA (National Basketball Association) championship, winning four straight games over the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals after losing the opening two. Heat Coach Pat Riley won his fifth title but first since 1988.
In the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished the regular season at 11-5, but caught fire at the right time and won their fifth Super Bowl, 21-10 over the Seattle Seahawks.
Six-times Pro Bowler Jerome 'The Bus' Bettis ended his brilliant 13-year career in his hometown of Detroit with the championship ring he so desperately sought.
On the baseball field, the St. Louis Cardinals won only 83 games in the regular season, but rose to the occasion in the playoffs to win the World Series in five games over the Detroit Tigers.
New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor were killed when their plane crashed into a Manhattan high-rise apartment building in October. Lidle had only recently obtained his pilot's licence.
The National Hockey League (NHL) returned to action with new rules, a new collective bargaining agreement and first-time champions, the Carolina Hurricanes, who beat the Edmonton Oilers. Fans came back after a one-year lock-out but attendances were patchy.
In boxing, Vladimir Klitschko vowed to re-unify the World heavyweight divisions after regaining his IBF title.
Despite his increasingly frail appearance, Muhammad Ali continued to make public appearances in 2006, including a visit to Madison Square Gardens in November to watch his daughter, Laila, successfully defend her super middleweight title against fellow-American Shelley Burton.
Former world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, who became the youngest boxer to gain the title when he knocked out Archie Moore in 1956, died in May. He was 71 and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease and prostate cancer. Patterson was 21 when he won the title, making him the youngest heavyweight champion until 20-year-old Mike Tyson in 1986.
In 1960, Patterson became the first heavyweight champion to regain the crown when he knocked out Sweden's Ingemar Johansson.
Amongst other sporting greats who passed away in 2006 were Byron Nelson, Fred Trueman, Franciso Fernandez Ochoa, Tele Santana, Giacinto Facchetti, Ferenc Puskas and Peter Norman.
Norman, who died of a heart attack aged 64, is remembered as part of one of the most vivid Olympic images.
After taking silver in the men's 200 metres at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, the Australian shared the podium with Tommie Smith and John Carlos as the two African-Americans famously gave a 'black power' salute.
Norman donned a badge on the podium in support of their cause. He also suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute, after Carlos had forgotten his pair. Both Smith and Carlos travelled to Melbourne and were pall-bearers at Norman's funeral. USA Track and Field have proclaimed October 9, the date of his funeral, as Peter Norman Day.
Golfing great Byron Nelson, who won an unprecedented 11 PGA Tour events in a row during 1945, died in September at the age of 94.
Former England cricketer Fred Trueman, one of the finest fast bowlers of all time, died at the age of 75. In 1964 the man known as "Fiery Fred" became the first bowler to take 300 test wickets.
Francisco Fernandez Ochoa, Spain's only Winter Olympics gold medallist, died aged 56 following a long battle with cancer. Despite having won only one World Cup race throughout his career, Ochoa took the slalom gold medal in the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics.
Former Italy and Inter Milan captain Giacinto Facchetti passed away in September. The 64-year-old Facchetti, who was Inter's president, had been suffering from a serious illness for several weeks.
Soccer will also miss Tele Santana, 74, who coached Brazil in two World Cups -- and one of the game's greatest players, Ferenc Puskas of Hungary, who died on November 17 at the age of 79 after a long illness.
Puskas captained Hungary in the 1950s, leading them to within a disallowed goal of the World Cup trophy in 1954 against West Germany. The 'Magical Magyars' led by Puskas lost just one match -- that 1954 World Cup final -- in six years. He played in two of the most famous games in history: Hungary's stunning 6-3 victory over England at Wembley in 1953; and Real Madrid's 7-3 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup final.
Puskas defected to the West after the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and signed for the Real Madrid side led by Alfredo Di Stefano. Around 10,000 people bid farewell to Puskas in the stadium named after him on December 9. Soldiers placed his coffin on a large three-tiered podium, with flames at each corner, in the centre of the football field. Some of Puskas' greatest moments were shown on a big screen before his coffin was carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage around the pitch lined by 1,200 soccer players in the colours of different teams.
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