Zinedine Zidane, captain of the French World Cup team which lost a tense final round game to Italy, has been offered a spot on the roster of the American hockey team St. Louis Blues.
This unexpected twist compounds a day of intrigue for Zidane, sparked when, after a heated exchange of comments with Italy's Marco Materazzi on the pitch in overtime, the Frenchman head-butted Materazzi, slamming square into the Italian defender's chest and knocking him to the grass. This move, allegedly witnessed by a line umpire, resulted in a red card and ejection from the game for Zidane, and FIFA may choose to fine him.
An unapologetic Zidane spat at the media afterwards, saying, "This wimp blocks and holds me, then verbally assaults me. I was merely giving him a taste of his own medicine."
He continued, "If only this were the NHL - those guys get into all sorts of scrapes and fights, and they're just given a quick timeout. Hockey is tough, where slamming into each other is just part of the gameplay."
St. Louis Blues head coach Mike Kitchen, after hearing of the incident and Zidane's comments, quickly researched the player and forwarded a formal offer to the former soccer player, as this game marked his last before retiring from the sport.
The last-place team from the 2005-06 season was looking to make some big changes for the upcoming season, but few expected as extreme a measure as this. Kitchen quickly reassured his critics.
"Look at this man," Kitchen explained. "He's amazingly fit to be able to run a soccer field for nearly two hours. He's passionate. He's aggressive. And he's willing to use physical force when necessary. These are all prerequisites for any hockey player."
Critics speculated the move was a publicity stunt to boost revenues and attendance rather than on the merits of the soccer star.
"I can't see how a soccer player can make a seamless transition into such a physical sport as hockey," sports columnist Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said. "I mean, does the guy even know how to skate?"
Zidane, meanwhile, said that hockey was "intriguing" and would be a "great outlet, physically," but refused the offer, saying, "I wanted to retire, not start in a new sport. Besides, America only sells freedom fries anymore. And what's with this calling it 'soccer'?"
French President Jacques Chirac was disappointed by Zidane's eventual decision, saying, "Now how am I supposed to rid my nation of this goat?"
It remains to be seen what impact, if any, the headbutting incident has on Zidane's legacy, but he won't be playing hockey anytime soon, no matter Kitchen's offer.