Football as Ritual

By | January 13, 2016

The French anthropologist Christian Bromberger has studied and written about football games as a kind of ritual that provides an “inexhaustible terrain of interpretation” for those who participate and watch. In his French-language book “Le match de football,” he studied how crowds experienced and interpreted games in the European football heartlands of Marseille, Milan, and Naples. He condensed the theoretical conclusions he came to through this research in his 1995 article “Football as World-View and as Ritual.”

One of the more remarkable works that captures the form and content of this ritual is the 2006 film Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait, by the film-makers and conceptual artists Douglas Gordon and Phillippe Parreno. On April 23, 2005, they installed seventeen cameras in the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid to film a full game between Spanish Liga teams Real Madrid and Villarreal CF. But they focused the cameras not on the ball, but rather on one entrancing player, Zinedine Zidane, considered one of the greatest footballers in history. The full film is below.

Since it’s release, the film has garnered effusive praise from some quarters and sharp criticism from others. While it had a long run in theaters in France as well as being shown commercially in the U.K. and other European countries, in the U.S. it has only been shown in small art houses and film festivals.

The film’s directors, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, have a background on experimental contemporary art, including video installations, and the film is also clearly an experiment. (Whether it is a success of failure as such is the key question). Like many other experimental films, it presents its argument not so much through narrative or exposition but through form. It is, among other things, an attempt to represent sport in a way that is radically different from the kinds of portrayals were are used to, which either provide us a global picture of live game or else highlights that emphasize the climaxes of the game over the empty spaces in between. Of course, it is also a portrait of Zidane, and the reactions to the film also have much to do with the very different ways people see him as both a player and an icon.

Here are two interesting discussions of the film

Review in Stylus Magazine

Review at City of Sound

This week in the “Soccer Politics” class at Duke University, we are asking the students to post comments in response to this post that bring together their reading of the 1995 Bromberger article on “Football as World-View and as Ritual” with a viewing of Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait. Specifically, we are asking them to find specific moments in the film that speak to or illustrate specific points made in Bromberger’s article about how a football match works, and we can see within it. In doing so, we ask them to share specific quotes from Bromberger along with specific moments in the film (identified according to the time on the Youtube video above). (Students, please post your response in the comments section below by 5 p.m. on Wednesday January 20th).

We also welcome other comments about the article and film!

Category: Films Zidane

About Laurent Dubois

I am Professor of Romance Studies and History and the Director of the Forum for Scholars & Publics at Duke University. I founded the Soccer Politics blog in 2009 as part of a course on "World Cup and World Politics" taught at Duke University. I'm currently teaching the course under the title "Soccer Politics" here at Duke. My books include Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France (University of California Press, 2010) and The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer (Basic Books, 2018)

47 thoughts on “Football as Ritual

  1. Austin Tran

    Since its conception, football has captivated men, women, and children around the world and developed into a cultural phenomenon eerily similar to that of a religion. In Bromberger’s article “Football as world-view and as ritual” he asserts that much of the popularity of football comes from the way that the sport is a microcosmic representation of the world in which its spectators live. Early on Bromberger claims, “The popularity of sport lies in its ability to embody the ideals of democratic societies by showing us, through its heroes that anyone – like Pele, for instance – can become someone, that status is not conferred at birth, but is won in the course of a lifetime. So football, like other sports, metaphorically magnifies achievement against what one started with; it measures conquered status as against acquired status” (296). In this way football reflects the people’s desire for social mobility in a capitalist society, where theoretically movement is based on achievement and ability. Zidane himself is a classic example of the rags-to-riches story, as he grew from humble beginnings to become one of the most revered men in the history of the most popular sport in the world. Further supporting his claim that football reflects the world at large, Bromberger states, “As well as individual performance, it need not be stressed that football values team work, solidarity, division of labour and collective planning – very much in the image of the industrial world which originally produced it” (296). On an individual scale, this can be seen in Gordon and Perreno’s film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait in the way that Zidane spends the majority of his time walking or jogging around the pitch. Here, Zidane operates as an efficient team player, knowing what he needs to do and trusting his teammates enough to accomplish their jobs, and therefore does not run all around the pitch trying to control every aspect of the game. This division of labour creates specific identities for each role, such as the midfielders being the lungs of the team, that fans can align themselves and grow their personal attachment to the game. Additionally, at 32:52 Zidane scolds the referee, telling him “You should be ashamed” because he felt that the referee miscalled the penalty that led to a goal for the other team. This embodies Bromberger’s idea that in today’s success-based society “failure and misfortune are only psychologically acceptable if they can be explained away in terms of a third party’s action, be it injustice, fate or victimization.” Overall, the reflection of a democratic society’s principles into the art of football has greatly contributed to the success of the sport into the modern day.

  2. Lopa Rahman

    Bringing together my reading of Christian Bromberger’s article “Football as World-View and as Ritual” and my viewing of Douglas Gordon and Phillippe Perreno’s documentary film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait was an interesting exercise that enabled me to clearly see how Bromberger’s assertions play out on the pitch. In his piece, Bromberger offers a convincing explanation of soccer’s status as a “kind of universal referent”, illuminating the unique character of the game and its ability to unite people across geographical, ethnic, and generational lines (Bromberger 293). After thinking about the film in relation to the article, I want to highlight two moments in Gordon and Perreno’s masterful work and explain how they are manifestations of ideas articulated by Bromberger.
    1) 32:51: At this point in the film, Zidane tells the referee he should be ashamed. Zidane, who disagrees with a call that led to a goal for the other team, proves Bromberger’s point that “failure and misfortune are only psychologically acceptable if they can be explained away in terms of a third party’s action, be it injustice, fate or victimization” (Bromberger 299). The referee’s call is the “third party’s action”, which Zidane deems an “injustice” because in his eyes, the other team did not deserve to get a call in their favor and have the opportunity to score.
    2 ) 36:54: Here, Zidane shares a memory of a time when he “knew” he was going to score. Listening to Zidane recount this story immediately made me think of the role of fate in soccer. Bromberger writes, “Football can….be understood as an infinite variation on the drama of fortune in this world” (Bromberger 297). Outcomes in soccer, much like outcomes in life in general, rest on significantly more than merit alone. This fact–clearly illustrated during this moment in the film–contributes to soccer’s ability to mirror the human experience, and by extension, the sport’s popularity.


  3. Brian Koh

    Football indeed is a ritual. For players on the pitch or on the bench and for all the numerous people watching the game from the outside. When this analogy between football and ritual was made, I immediately thought of a unique event – Benfica’s pre-game ritual. Benfica, before their home game, goes through a weird ceremony where a well-trained eagle flies into the stadium with a beautiful trajectory and sits on the club’s crest. It is quite different from other common noisy and pre-game pump up style rituals in other sports which include fans and bands making loud noises and a mascot doll running around. In Benfica’s home stadium, the real eagle, the mascot of the team flies in a rather very peaceful and sacred atmosphere. Of course, not all football teams’ pre-game rituals are like this. I would not make such a radical leap. But this sacred ceremony, I believe, does show how a football match or football as a sports, could be a ritual that incorporates a broad universe.
    On the other hand, the Zidane film seemed to me a work approached from a different perspective. It was a 90 minute film, shooting a 90 minute football game, but focusing only on one player on the pitch with 22 players. As a football fan, I loved watching Zidane’s games, Zidane’s game highlights, and even Zidane’s best moves compilations. I watched those videos so many times, that no matter which version of Zidane’s compilation video I was watching, I would know each scene of it. Yet, this film had a completely different point of view. It was in a first person view from Zidane. I could almost feel like I was playing on the pitch as Zidane and it was really interesting. For the most parts, Zidane seemed strolling around, sometimes almost looking nonchalant. From my personal experience, midfield has never been that relaxing atmosphere. Yet, Zidane was continuously keeping his seemingly slow pace, and at the same time receive standing ovation from the crowd several times he touches the ball. It was amazing. It was also interesting to see the contrast between his almost god-like skills and composure while playing, the narration was telling how Zidane as a human and as a once child passionately loved football and everything around it.

  4. Andrew Jordan

    The film, Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait, is comprised, almost exclusively, of footage of just Zinedine Zidane during a match against Villareal. However, when put into context with the Christian Bromberger article, one can see that there is much more to the seemingly mundane film than meets the eye. To the indoctrinated viewer, the film is basically just a video of a world-renowned footballer meandering about the pitch in the twilight of his career. He displays neither exceptional pace, nor masterful footwork. Much of his time on camera is spent walking, intermingled with a couple segments of enhanced activity. Yet, after reading Christian Bromberger’s article detailing how football was not only a game, but also a ritual, one sees that Zidane is more than just a footballer past his prime trying to keep up. One sees that Zidane’s demeanor is less like that of a washed-up athlete and more like a priest engulfed in prayer. His facial expression, movement, and passion on the pitch are all saturated with an indescribable deference to the game of football. Zinedine Zidane does more than just play soccer, he worships it.

    This is most explicitly shown by the subtitled text that appeared at select moments throughout the film. These passages, which were spoken by Zidane himself, talked about the many things Zidane felt during a football match. He felt the not only the roar of the crowd, but also the whispers shared among them and the beating of their hearts. He also recalled the imaginary commentator that played in his head when he was child, soon to be replaced by real ones during his illustrious career. This showed that even though he was a professional athlete, he would forever view football as more of childhood passion than an adulthood profession. Lastly, while Zidane may, at times, look aloof and disinterested on camera, he is actually the exact opposite. One can clearly see that he is always calculating, forever strategizing whenever he is on the pitch. Every movement he makes, regardless of how subtle is akin to the movement of a piece on a chess board. In addition, he only uses his talent when absolutely necessary, He knows exactly when to make an aggressive move and exactly when to pass the ball off to a teammate. Every motion is planned, nothing is done out of chance or pure luck.

    In conclusion, there is more than meets the eye in Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait. What could be mistaken as a mediocre match from a footballer who is past his prime was actually a look into the life of one of the greatest athletes to play the game. What could have been mistaken for aloofness was actually reverence. Zidane’s playing showed how football is more than a game, it is a form of worship.

  5. William

    What surprised me most about me about Zidane, the athlete, as shown in the movie,is how much is walking and not playing the game of soccer. He is deep in concentration in the game, watching his teammates and competitors, while walking around the pitch. He yells to his teammates and is fixated on the ball and the other people around him. Is is this part of the game that I connect with and what Bromberger mentions as deep play. Zidane is definitely in deep, deep play. He face bleeds with commitment with the hours spent practicing the thing that he loves the most.

    For me that is the element of soccer that I have the easiest time connecting with. Being a runner, I spend hours each day with a focused stare on my face as I do my daily workouts. The activity is melodic and runs deep inside me while I focus on my body and how I am moving. I show little emotion, as Zidane, and I am fixated on the steps ahead.

  6. Nick Salzman

    When reading Bromberger’s article on “Football as world-view as ritual”, one passage stood out to me in particular.

    “The popularity of sport lies in its ability to embody the ideals of democratic societies by showing us, through its heroes that anyone – like Pele, for instance – can become someone, that status is not conferred at birth, but is won in the course of a lifetime. So football, like other sports, metaphorically magnifies achievement against what one started with; it measures conquered status as against acquired status.” (pg 296)

    This passage reminded me of our conversation in class about Zidane and his upbringing. Zidane did not grow up with status in French society, and through soccer has achieved heightened status beyond the soccer field. Zidane is a respected member of French society and of the world. Watching the movie of Zidane, one can see how much love and respect everyone in the stands has for him. Since Zidane was recently named the new manager of Real Madrid, there has been overwhelming support from the community. I found an interesting article about Zidane topping the popularity charts at Real Madrid. The article talks about how Zidane is being treated like a king by the media and the fans. For example, the article mentions how a reporter begins his press conference question with the words, “You are a legend”. If you want to check the article out, I have included the link below.

  7. Kevin Rhine

    I watched the Zidane film after reading Bromberger’s article, and thus it was fascinating to follow this one man as he participates in what Bromberger depicts as a philosophical and sociological gathering of players and fans. In his article he describes football with an artistic majesty that I’ve never seen used to recount a sport. Yet thanks to the creative cinematography and direction of the Zidane film, I got a glimpse of the magic. It really is more than just a competitive game.

    Bromberger, on page 296, writes that “football values team work, solidarity, division of labour and collective planning — very much in the image of the industrial world which originally produced it.” In the film you can clearly see and hear when these qualities are appreciated. Whether it be when Zidane makes small, but clean and calculated passes like at 5:50 mark, or when he makes a terrific run up the left side and crosses it in to Ronaldo for the assist at 1:01:53, the crowd makes an effort to recognize the good work Zidane is doing (granted the latter action warranted a much wilder response than the former).

    On page 302, Bromberger details a football stadium as “one of those rare spaces where collective emotions are unleashed (in the words of Norbert Elias: ‘controlled decontrolling of emotions’), where socially taboo values are allowed to be expressed (the crude affirmation of one’s dislike of the Other etc.)”. Zidane embodies that fiery unleashing when, at the 1:23:45 mark, he reacts aggressively to the bad tackle on his teammate. However, Zidane crosses the fine line and goes beyond a normal display of frustration, thereby earning himself a red card.

  8. Trung Can

    After watching the movie about Zidane, my memory flashed back to the World Cup 2006’s final. In the match, after equalizing 1-1 for France, Zidane got a red card for head-butting Materazzi and his team lost to Italy in the end without his presence. These stories about Zidane represented exactly what Bromberger meant by “the recurrent rise and fall of the stars” (Bromberger 1995: 296) in his article “Football as world-view and ritual”.

    In the movie, Zidane had some brilliant moments, especially when he dribbled pass 3 players and opened a clear chance for Ronaldo to score. However, when nobody could expect, he got a red card for his uncontrolled temper. Hence, despite of being one of the best soccer players in the history, after all, he is also a human and can make mistake. He really depicted the many good/bad sides and the uncertainty of a person or a society in general, “It point up the uncertainty and changing nature of individual and collective status” (Bromberger 1995: 296).

    In addition, those good/bad moments happened just in a few minutes of a game on a green field and highly would become futile after the game ended. The fact that soccer reflects the existence of realistic society with both good and bad things without really affect the real society may be the reason why it can be viewed as a ritual. Ritual also opens up another dimension in which either structures or anti-structures can represent the ideas and beliefs in normal life.

    Hence, as a participant of the soccer “ritual”, Zidane, who grew up in difficult background and had problems with temper, has managed to become something else, a maestro of soccer and an icon of his generation. Thus, like Bromberger said in his article “… its ability to embody the ideals of democratic societies by showing us that anyone can become someone.” (Bromberger 1995: 296), soccer can produce inspiring figures, who are again very human in some ways, to inspire people to work hard to achieve something in their life.

  9. Patrick He

    In many ways, Zidane serves as an icon in the ritual of Real Madrid games. Bromberger discusses how “the ’faithful’ express their excitement, punctuating the actions on the pitch with words, chants and gestures, all of them codified” (307). This is particularly relevant when you notice how much support Zidane receives from the crowd for any of his actions on the pitch, no matter how small they may seem. Even when he receives the ball for only a few seconds, such as at 9:25 and at 18:49, the volume visibly increases, and when he is sent off, he receives applause from the fans in the Bernabéu (1:25:00).

    It is important to note that at this time, Real Madrid was going through its first Galacticos era, and it had one of the most star-studded lineups in the world. Yet, it feels as if Zidane is the most beloved, given the outbursts of enthusiasm from the crowd. Bromberger talks about how supporters identify with teams based on how they can serve as “symbols of a specific mmode of collective existence” and how “the style of the team does not always correspond to the way the players really play, but rather to a stereotyped image, rooted in tradition, that the collectivity holds up to itself and wishes to present to others” (303). It seems as if Zidane embodies what the Real Madrid fans want the most, and while there are a number of equally talented players alongside him, it is Zidane who best serves as a ritualistic icon.

    Another thing that struck me was how Zidane acted off the ball. In the entirety of the match, he spent most of the time observing, thinking, and considering how he could best help the team. He did not spend much time on the ball or running around the pitch. Bromberger notes that “on the pitch each position requires the implementation of specific skills,” which I feel Zidane embodies as an attacking midfielder (296). When he does receive the ball, his touches, vision, and passing all seem flawless, and when he assists Ronaldo for the first goal, one can instantly see his genius (1:02:00).

    The last part of the article that struck me as poignant was how Bromberger discussed uncertainty in the game, where he notes “the uncertainty and changing nature of individual and collective status,” citing the “emblematic figures of players on the substitutes’ bench, the recurrent rise and fall of the stars, [and] the promotion and relegation of teams” (296). Despite being down to an early penalty, Real Madrid were able to claw their way back and ultimately win 2-1. At the same time, a quote from the film struck me as important. In the subtitles, Zidane says, “I remember playing in another place, at another time, when something amazing happened. Someone passed the ball to me, and before even touching it, I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew I was going to score. It was the first and last time it ever happened” (36:53). While it seems contradictory at first, it feels a lot more like a sudden inspiration that Zidane felt at the time, a one-time occurrence over random iterations of hundreds of games.

  10. Derek Wei

    I found it a very interest task to compare and analyze Christian Bromberger’s article “Football as world-view and ritual” together with the documentary “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait”. While Bromberger’s article articulated and presented us with various interesting perspectives of soccer (from its origins, history of evolvement to its community/social meanings, etc….) very comprehensively and clearly, the Zidane documentary was kind of vague in terms of the method that it uses to express the underlying meanings. I have to admit that I was kind lost while I first started watching it, as there was barely any line, and the audio track was a little bit weird too. However, 15 minutes into the film, I began to understand the intention of the filmmakers and gradually emerged myself into the game, really trying to empathize myself with the players on court (especially Zidane) and to feel the whole situation.

    From the film, one of the things that draw lots of attention from me was the energetic behavior from the massive fan base, as their dynamic actions literally make them to become an inseparable part of the game. They clap when players from their home-team make good plays, they boo when the referee makes a bad call, they get anger when the opponent play too aggressive and stumble the home-team players, and they revel when they team scores a goal… Understandable as it is, as soccer is definitely one of the most popular sports in this planet, it’s still pretty impressive to see how fan can become so fanatic on an event while they themselves won’t even able to participate in playing. This was also discussed by Bromberger’s article, as Bromberger didn’t just depicted soccer as a simple sport, but rather sublimated it as “world-view and ritual”. To be more specific, through its centuries-long history, soccer has been tied to so many other things and was given various meanings. It’s treated as a bounding-tie of many communities so that local people can unite together rather than dividing themselves on other issues; it’s many people’s childhood dream as lots of them started watching and playing soccer as a kid; it’s even treated as ritual as royal fans will treat games as ceremonies and people get identities through supporting their favorite teams. And because of these, soccer has literally became an important part of tens of thousands of people’s live. No wonder why we can see fans are so energetic in the Zidane film.

    Another thing I found interesting from both the film and the article is actually the stadium. Bromberger mentioned that stadium has “dual character which makes it one of the few places where a modern urban society can offer itself a material image of its unity and its differences”. And from the film, besides seeing Bromberger observation of the unity and divide between fans, we can also see the contract and similarities between players and fans. While watching the film, I had the feeling that Zidane is kind of lonely even though he is playing with a big team and has tons of fan supporting him. He runs, he dribbles, he passes.. it feels like he’s doing all these things alone on the court, while all the other things inside this massive stadium is irrelevant to him. He is so different, in terms of personal history, jobs, social status… from those tens of thousands of fans at the stadium supporting him. And yet all of them are now coexisting inside this massive stadium. It’s a pretty interesting phenomenon to think about, and maybe, there’s part of the magic of soccer.

  11. Rafae Alam

    Christian Bromberger’s piece, “Football as world-view and as ritual”, features an extensive analysis of association football, drawing on multiple perspectives to produce a thorough analysis of the sport. Although he supports his assertions with facts and sound arguments, actually seeing his claims materialize on the pitch provides the strongest persuasions for his positions. The film, Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait, provides an excellent opportunity to watch some of Bromberger theories come to life. One of the most obvious examples comes around the 32-minute mark when Zidane scolds the referee and tells him that “he should be ashamed” for giving the other team a penalty which lead to a goal. Bromberger, in fact, notes in his book that “failure and misfortune are only psychologically acceptable if they can be explained away in terms of a third party’s action, be it injustice, fate or victimization.” As Zidane’s remark shows, he clearly had trouble coping with the misfortune of being scored on, directing the blame on a third party, the referee, rather than himself or his team.

    Further, Bromberger refers to the ritualistic or religious aspects of soccer numerous times throughout his book. As we observe Zidane during the film, he refers to such aspects through his commentary, stating at the 30-minute mark that “sometimes when you arrive at the stadium you feel that everything has already been decided.” Additionally, near the 37-minute mark, he recounts a story from the past where he was passed the ball and “knew he was going to score” even before he got a touch on it. Towards the end of the film, around the 85-minute mark, he makes an interesting comment about the subject, noting that “Magic is sometimes very close to nothing at all.” I’ll admit that the meaning that Zidane is trying to convey with this sentence elludes me, but nonetheless it clearly references the more supernatural aspect of soccer that Bromberger refers to throughout his analysis.

    Many of the comments and arguments that Bromberger makes can be easily seen in the film, thereby improving our understanding of what is happening. For example, his assertion that football matches can give crowds “the opportunity to celebrate itself by performing and displaying itself” can easily be observed many times throughout the film, such as near the 60-minute mark when a fan can be seen in the stands passionately waving a flag. However, some of the arguments that Bromberger makes only lead to more questions as one watches the film. For example, he notes many teams aim to select players not only based on skill, but also on “profound notions of local identity and citizenship.” So what does it say about Real Madrid’s fans when they gift Zidane with a standing ovation after he is dismissed from play around the 85-minute mark for unsporting behavior? Are they simply paying respect to a star player, or does their culture condone such aggressive conduct? At the end of the day, whether Bromberger’s work provokes new questions regarding the film or simply answers already existing ones, we cannot deny the numerous connections between these two valuable pieces.

  12. Alikhan Mukhamedi

    While Bromberger compares a football match to a religious ritual, Zinedine Zidane is often seen as a “deity” by football fans around the world. Bromberger argued in the paper that “football links the universal to local values of identity”(1995:304), and I have nothing left but to agree with him. Zidane’s “you should be ashamed” (32:50) and his reaction to an aggressive tackle in the end of the game (1:23:25) show us his passionate soul. We could all see the same thing in the World Cup final in 2006 in a well-known head butt against Materazzi. I believe that if today we asked Zidane about whether he could change something in his career, it would be not letting his emotions take control over him. However, it perfectly shows his temper, and it is his personality on and off the pitch. Having lived in Turin (Zidane played there for Juventus based in Turin for 5 years), Italy for a few years, I think I know where he has got gotten that exact part of his behaviour.

    Also, Bromberger said “it need not be stressed that football values team work, solidarity, division of labour and collective planning” (1995:296), and we can watch how Zidane does not run without the ball not only because of his perfect sense of positioning but also because he knows that his teammates, like Roberto Carlos and Walter Samuel, would clear any ball behind his back. Throughout the whole movie, Zidane numerously set the vector of Real Madrid’s attacks by touching the ball a few times, he simply does not need more. He and his coach both know of his strengths and weaknesses better than anyone, so division of labour is clearly seen when he is trying to save up some energy(1:01:39). It is also an indicator of collective planning and teammowrk as his teammates are running and trying to get the ball to Zidane, because they are aware of his tremendous skills and that he’s most efficient with the ball rather than without it. Lastly, Raul and company understand Zidane’s emotional outburst even though he received a red card for it, because the Yellow Submarine player might have injured him. Real Madrid players show their solidarity with his decision(1:25:05) even if they were left to finish the game with only ten men vs. eleven.

  13. George Smith

    In the article, “Football as World-View and as Ritual,” Bromberger discusses how the context of a football match, the events that occur before, during, and after a match, resemble religious practices. Douglas Gordon and Phillipe Parreno’s film, “Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait”, strips that context away from their visuals, and instead allows the audience to provide that knowledge and context themselves. The film relies on Bromberger’s religion of football for meaning to present a portrait of Zinedine Zidane. Going into the film, the viewer is expected to have background knowledge of the context of Zidane himself and of the game as a whole. The vast majority of the film is presented at an extremely low angle compared to that used when normally viewing a football match. Furthermore, because of the level of zoom used and the shallow focus, Zidane himself, if he is not the only one in frame, is the only person in focus for much of the film. This combination of cinematographic effects makes it so that the audience loses all sense of the progression of the game. At 32:30, it can be assumed that Villa real scores. The camera, however, never leaves Zidane, and the angle of the shot means that we never actually see the ball go in the net. All we see is a few seconds of Villareal players celebrating. There are several moments throughout the film when this trend is broken. The directors will occasionally use footage from the broadcast of the game, including replay footage of Zidane crossing the ball to Ronaldo who puts the ball in the net (1:02:00). The only other source of context presented in the film is sound. The directors used actually audio from the stadium, allowing us to hear the cheering fans, and occasionally audio from Zidane himself.
    Most of the visuals in the film are close to useless without knowing who Zidane is. A majority of the film is spent watching Zidane walk or jog around the field. This could be any player. Knowing that we are watching Zidane, however, changes our entire perception of the film. Zidane provides his own context. In his article, Bromberger states that, “the popularity of sport lies in its ability to embody the ideals of democratic societies by showing us, through its heroes, that anyone can become someone, that status is not conferred at birth, but is won in the course of a lifetime.” Zidane is the epitome of this ideal. The son of Algerian immigrants, he started out in the banlieus of Marseilles and rose to become a national hero and is recognized as one of the greats of football. Through doing this, Zidane became a symbol of French unity and pride. He is not just a man, but instead, something closer to a religious symbol. The film relies on the weight of his reputation. It relies on the religious following that football receives to present a portrait of Zidane. We are not just watching an unknown soccer player walk and jog around the field, occasionally touching the ball. We are watching a man with a religious following doing what he does best, play football.

  14. Chris Arora

    Christian Bromberger notes the importance of football lies in its’ ability to “celebrate merit, performance, and competition among equals” (296). Certainly this is the case illustrated in the film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. The film is centered around following Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid throughout a game between Villarreal CF. Zidane’s individual performance on the pitch is superb as he executes great precision on and off the ball. Zidane’s play in relation to the team is indicative of the reappearing theme of the “collective” in Bromberger’s article. Just as how football unites people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, Zidane unites Real Madrid on the pitch. I think the reason that Zidane only is followed around is because of his impact. A number of times throughout the film you see Zidane pointing and shouting “hey” to alert his teammates of where he wants to direct the flow of the ball. Going along with the representation of Zidane as a facilitator, the most profound moment of the film to me is when he is standing and directing Roberto Carlos, a world class right back, to move up the pitch by pointing and calling out “aqui” (1:03:47). The scene with Roberto Carlos speaks volumes to how Zidane is able to get everyone to play to a certain style, representing his impact on the field.

    Going back earlier in Zidane’s career, Christian Bromberger notes in relation to the play style at Juventus how “it is essential for the players to look like lords … fair play, correctness, and respect for the referee’s decisions are the key words here” (304). Written before Zidane’s arrival at Juventus in 1996, I find Bromberger’s statements to be not only ironic but also indicative of the change of the sport. Zidane was far from a lord on the pitch. “Fair play” and “respect for the referee’s decisions” are phrases not typically associated with his style of play. Even in the film he is seen approaching the referee after a penalty call and uttering the phrase, “you should be ashamed” (32:52). Zidane always played with a fiery edge as he received multiple red cards throughout his career. However, I think this is why he has remained so memorable in the eyes of many. His almost violent passion for the sport in a way mimics the likes of the leaders of the “ultra fan” groups. “The significance of visibility” is characterized and remembered by his actions on the pitch (302). Receiving an unnecessary red card, after the magnificence he had displayed on the pitch all game is a fitting way for the film to end. Despite his successful and brilliant career, Zidane will always be remembered by many for his head-butt in the 2006 World Cup, not for his pristine dribbling or brilliant free kicks.

    Zidane makes a powerful statement in the film, when he describes how “sometimes when you arrive in the stadium, you feel that everything has been decided. The script has been written.” (30:50). Extending this outside of football, I think the idea of fate trumping all else is indicative of the society we live in. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, we can never escape the fate bestowed on us. However, as illustrated by Bromberger football does provide the opportunity for individuals such as Zidane to change their fate and to rise up from the lower class, and become amongst the world’s elite.

  15. Tirdad Shahbazi

    In order to effectively understand the film, “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait” through the lens of Bromberger’s “Football as world-view and as ritual”, I initially sought to select passages from Bromberger’s work that I deemed would be relevant in my analysis of the movie. After finishing the “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait”, I felt Bromberger’s exploration of the ideas of the reality-obscuring unification of the crowd and “Football as a ritual” were important in my viewing experience of the film.
    Bromberger writes that football, “provides a forum for the expression of collective identities” and that “a football stadium is one of those rare spaces where collective emotions are unleashed”. This notion of collective identity and community amongst the crowd can connect to the idea that the stadium projects an “illusory sense of unanimity which masks the tensions and conflicts of everyday life”. To draw these notions back to the film, we must look at the image on screen at 24:51. In this moment, Zidane’s figure in the foreground of the screen stands juxtaposed against the blurry faces of the on looking spectators. In this moment, Zidane’s words appear on the screen as he describes how he can feel the presence of the crowd through only a noise. In this moment very moment of the film, Bromberger’s words regarding the illusionary unanimity of the crowd are reflected in the image seen on screen. Indeed, when sitting in the crowd, all notions of social structure and one’s societal position are forgotten. All the pain and injustice that may occur outside the stadium are seemingly forgotten. Social hierarchy is broken down until it is nothing but the mere sound and murmur of a unified crowd.
    The second point I want to explore is Bromberger’s notion of “football as a ritual”. Indeed, when delving into the idea that the stadium provides a rare space for collective emotionality, it evokes the image of a religious ceremony. The movie isolates Zidane for its entirety, and we hear the spirit and sentiments of the crowd as only a noise coming from a distant background. The restlessness of the crowd at times is soothed when the ball touches Zidane’s feet. When he strikes for goal at 6:11, we can almost feel the crowd hold its breath. When the ball is blocked at the last second, we hear as everyone in the stadium can finally release the built up air. Watching Zidane for the members of the crowd is comparable to attending a ritual or religious ceremony. He is their preacher. But while a preacher controls his audience through words, Zidane holds the emotions of his crowd at the tips of his feet.

  16. Samuel Skinner

    When considering the possible relationships in Bromberger’s article “Football as world-view and ritual” and the Zidane film, it is essential to first speak on Zidane himself; his style of play, demeanor, gestures, and behaviors on the pitch.

    One of the first clues I noticed were in how Zidane composed himself and acted on the pitch. Particularly in the latter stages of his career, Zidane’s performance on the pitch was a true performance in fact — akin to an artist painting a portrait or a musician composing a piece. Zidane’s subtle motions are more effective than nearly everyone else on the pitch, yet he exerts seemingly little effort. In the game portrayed in the Zidane film, Zidane seemed to be playing like he was having tea on Sunday morning: with grace, elegance, and poise. I believe that this playing style mirrors much of why the game of football is beloved in many parts of the world as a “ritual”; the beauty within the game is critical when examining football’s popularity.

    Another striking point made in Bromberger that is captured within the Zidane film are the passions and emotions in the game. I believe that one of the most successful techniques used by the filmmaker was by cutting and spicing crowd and field noise (game noise) with music, the viewer of the film can really feel when the Bernabeu crowd is furious about an offsides call or ecstatic over a goal. The impact of a collective, intense and rapid fanbase acting as one in Bromberger. “When the tifosi (supporters) chant ’Devi morire’ (’You must die’) at an opposition player who has gone down injured, they do not actually want him to die, but the tone of their curse is not devoid of meaning.” (pg. 303).

  17. Nicholas Donadio

    The movie “Zidane: A Twenty-First Century Portrait” illustrates the other side of the soccer game by focusing the perspective on one player instead of the overall match as whole. Many examples from the film support arguments made in Christian Bromberger’s article “Football as a World-View and Ritual”. Bromberger speaks of the importance of the idols, great players such as Messi or Zidane himself. Through the idolization of these star players ” football, like other sports, metaphorically magnifies achievement against what one started with; it measures conquered status as against acquired status” (Broomberger 296). Similarly, the Zidane film demonstrates the unfaltering support that the crowd has for its star players. Near the end of the film when ZIdane is leaving the game as a result of his red card, he receives a standing ovation from the crowd in support of him (1:25:51). Even though Zidane has committed a penalty that resulted in his removal from the game the fans demonstrate their respect and care for him.

    Another example of the ritualistic nature of the sport of football brought up by Bromberger is the connection of the team to both local and national identity. Most of the actions of the crowd “[take] the form of a ritualized war, complete with anthems, military fanfares and banners wielded by fans” (Bromberger 302). We see examples of all of these behaviors throughout the film as the crowd is a constant background whether it be through the sound or actually visually. Particularly at 1:07:20, the crowd vs stands up and raucously cheers and waves banners and scarfs to show their support for the team after the scoring of the second goal . Furthermore, they go on to begin chanting anthems while they wait for the game to restart after the goal. These post goal celebrations exemplify the ritualistic nature of the crowd’s involvement in a football as devout supporters of their team, a symbol of their local identity.

  18. Kuber Madhok

    While watching soccer games on the television, most generally focus on the ball. Occasionally, a viewer might follow a player’s movements for maybe a minute or so, but they always go back to the ball so as not to miss any of the action. However, the film does quite the opposite. It mainly focusses on Zidane, following his movements, expressions, and reactions, while occasionally we watch the game through the main television camera but in short sequences, for example 4:05-4:36 and 4:39-4:44. But it always goes back to Zidane.

    According to Bromberger, “in stark and brutal fashion, it [soccer] points up the uncertainty and changing nature of individual and collective status” (296). Although he discusses more uncertainty in the long-term (relegation/promotion, player transfers, etc.), this same uncertainty is highlighted in the film. Madrid were playing a rather lackluster game against Villareal, failing to control the game and create chances. They concede a controversial penalty and go down a goal. Villareal also missed a golden opportunity at 53:10; it could have easily been 2-0. A loss would represent the failures of an extremely talented Madrid side, the Galacticos as they were called. But in the last quarter of the game Zidane, who was uninvolved in the game for the most part and just drifting around the field, sparks his team to life and creates his side’s first goal. And all of a sudden, the crowd is roaring, the players are communicating and shouting orders to each other, and new life is breathed into this Madrid side. They later go on to win a game. Soccer, more so than most other sports, can be extremely unpredictable, as Bromberger discusses, and this Real Madrid-Villareal game further reinforces his point. A player, Zidane in this case, or a team, Real Madrid, can suddenly ignite and flip a game on its side at any given moment.

    Furthermore, Bromberger mentions de Matta, the Brazilian style of play, “which sets a high value on the art of the feint, offers an illustration of the golden rule where it is important to know how to work your way out of trouble with stylish dissimulation” (303). Ronaldo, one of the greatest strikers of all time and a Brazilian, does just this in 1:06:42. As one Villareal player forces him to the sideline and another on the way to strip him of possession, Ronaldo glides past both in an instant before being brought down.

    Additionally, Bromberger also describes the different styles of teams, in particular Juve and Marseilles. Real Madrid, since the arrival of Florentino Pérez in 2000, Madrid have been known to spend massive amounts of money in an attempt to construct a team of “all-stars” so to speak. While very exciting and entertaining to watch, Madrid sides of this century have failed to have any sort of domestic or international success lasting more than one season. The ridiculously high standards at Real Madrid make it nearly impossible for a coach to stay long enough (average time that the manager is in charge before getting fired for the last 20 years is just over 12 months) to build a real team that lasts.

    The film also does an exceptional job in giving those who have never watched a soccer game from the stadium as full of an experience as possible. The camera changes focus several times to highlight the different aspects of the stadium. For example, at 5:00 we go from Zidane to the white net between him and one end of the stadium. At 1:05:25 the camera focusses one small group of fans and follows them for a brief moment. We see views of the different sections in the stadiums throughout, often when Zidane produces a touch of magic. All of these collective images from different camera angles provide a fuller of the game and gives the viewer more of a “stadium experience.”

  19. Shaker Samman

    Zinedine Zidane, in his prime, controlled the pace of play unlike any midfielder before him. Whether with Juve, Madrid, or the French national team, he served as the commander of the pitch, planning movement and attack long before the ball was touched. As Bromberger stresses in “Football as World View and Ritual”, in addition to individual performance, “football values teamwork, solidarity, division of labor, and collective planning” (Bromberger 1995: 296). Zidane embodies these principles, as though he is occasionally solitary, such as when he is shown a red card towards the end of the match, he is frequently seen walking around the pitch, scanning for defensive weakness, and planning an attack with his teammates.

    As we discussed in class, the crowd cheers when Zidane successfully completes otherwise mundane actions because they understand the necessary skill involved in helping the team. They feel as if they too are members of the club, and react in turn. As Bromberger explains, Liverpool fans gladly chant “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as a representation of the community the team has created (Bromberger 1995:296).

    The film shows Zidane the footballing mastermind, as well as Zidane the person. It shows him through his own eyes through quotes sprinkled throughout the film, as well as the observers’ eyes. It allows us to see his temper (later showcased against the Italians that July) as he is removed from the game following a scuffle down the stretch. In this moment, Zidane is not unlike an ultra, or any other fan who, as Bromberger states, has entered an arena — “one of those rare spaces where collective emotion is unleashed” (Bromberger 1995: 302).

    Zizou was a legend, but above that, he was human.

  20. Motin Yeung

    I came from Beijing. As a Beijinger I should be really proud of the Guoan FC, but my knowledge about soccer is only limited to the World Cup and the FIFA video game. Bromberger’s article “Football as world-view and as ritual” has showed me many interesting perspective about soccer that I have never thought of before. “[Football] provides a forum for the expression of collective identities and local or regional antagonisms” (Bromberger 302). The fans inside the stadium come together and cheer the team on, forming their own tight community. When they are surrounded by thousands of people just like themselves, a sense of belonging and unity can be felt through the crude affirmation of one’s dislike of the other team. Any individual is not representing himself or herself in the match. Instead he/she is representing the collective, whether that is a city or a country.

    Another interesting point from the article is that “Every match between rival towns, regions and countries takes the form of a ritualized war, complete with anthems, military fanfares and banners wielded by fans who make up the support divisions and who even call themselves ‘brigades’, ‘commandos’, ‘legions’ and ‘assault troops’” (302). The connection between he made between soccer and war is fascinating and surprising, yet when deeply analyzed, it is a suitable metaphor. The anthems, the fanfares, and the banners create a scene that remind me of a Roman army marching towards a city. For fans in the stadium, just like during a battle, everything is at stake and losing is not an option. This intensity brings fans excitement, and that is why they are coming to the stadium instead of watching the game on their couch.

    “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait” was a fantastic film. I enjoyed the film mainly because I have never seen soccer this way, and through this special lens I was able to see things that I could not see through the TV broadcast camera. However, I don’t think I would enjoy watching a soccer game if this is the TV broadcasting angel on every game. From my previous experience on watching soccer and playing FIFA, I thought soccer is a really intense sports with a lot of running and physical contacts, but after watching Zidane play in this film, I realized that it might not be the case. When I’m playing FIFA, my attention is always on the ball because I’m controlling every player on the team. However, in real life, every player is an individual and they all have their own position. Zidane cannot always chase after the ball. As a midfielder, he needs to stay in his position. Just like in the society, everyone has a role and one person cannot participate in every event that is happening in the world. As a member of the community, we need to contribute as much as we could through working hard on our post.

  21. Samantha Shapiro

    Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait perfectly captures the ubiquitous presence of football “law” in games. The style of cinematography that the film’s directors implore at times causes the viewer to forget that a world exists outside of Zidane. By focusing solely on his facial expressions and motions, the film makes it easy to ignore the other players and officials on the field, the crowd, and even the status of the game. However, Zidane’s brief interactions with the referees act as almost a snap back into reality; these exchanges highlight that while Zidane is an all-star athlete and a celebrity, he is still regulated and is very much a subject of the broader system of football rules.

    These meetings between Zidane and the officials (as can be seen throughout the entire film, but specific moments include 11:27, when he glances back at a referee to listen to his call on the play, and 20:27, when the referee holds up his whistle in front of the player’s face and reminds him who is really in charge) echoes Bromberger’s idea that “the black figure of the referee counteracts the many forms of trickery with the structures of the law” (Bromberger 297). Bromberger explains that “if the road to success depends on a mixture of merit and luck, then you also have to help yourself along with a little cheating: pretence and deception when employed opportunely, in football more than in other sports, can prove advantageous” (Bromberger 297). However, while the author admits that “intentionality is extremely difficult to establish” in these situations, the referees still offer a sense of order and discipline in a game that could so easily be run and manipulated by players as talented as Zidane (Bromberger 297). All in all, in a film that is so focused on one individual and his athletic prowess, the brief glimpses of the referees act as a reminder that Zidane is not above the law, despite how many games he wins.

  22. Cali Nelson

    In his article “Football as World-View and Ritual”, Bromberger compares each soccer match to a small ritualized war between rival teams, containing “anthems, military fanfares and banners wielded by fans who make up the support divisions” (Bromberger, 302). Such ritual behavior can be seen in the fans depicted in the film “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait”. Although they are not the focus of the film, the fans can clearly exhibiting militaristic behaviors at many points. For example, at 57:46 we see fans waving flags behind Zidane, similarly to how an army might fly its standard or flag to try and rally its troops in battles. During the film you can also often hear the fans singing in the background (specifically at 6:51). Though the words are unintelligible, the intentions are clear, as the songs are meant to encourage their players, to will them to win. This again has a direct connect to Bromberg’s concept of soccer matches as ritualized battle, as armies often used music to rally, strengthen, and encourage their troops, just as the Real Madrid fans are doing for their players.

    War is often depicted as being a chaotic and violent event, and one could describe certain soccer matches in the same way, particularly matches pitting similarly skilled rivals against one another. Yet for almost all of the film Zidane stands in contrast to these ideas. He spends much of the film walking or standing, reading the field rather than directly engaging the “enemy” or the opposing players. When he does receive or win the ball, he is always confident, cool, and composed with the ball. He never looks particularly harried by the opposition. When watching Zidane play, there is no sense of chaos. The sequence from 18:40 to 18:57 particularly stands out in this respect, as Real Madrid has just cleared the ball from its defensive third. It would be very easy to turn the hurried clearance over to the other team and allow another attack, yet Zidane calmly traps the ball, slows the pace of the game, and starts the transition to attack for Real Madrid. The only time Zidane seems to become caught up in the “battle” is his final sequence, when he is sent off the pitch for engaging in a chaotic and somewhat violent altercation (Zidane 1:31:03), an ending the seems to stand in contrast with the rest of his match.

  23. Calais Nelson

    In his article “Football as World-View and Ritual”, Bromberger compares each soccer match to a small ritualized war between rival teams, containing “anthems, military fanfares and banners wielded by fans who make up the support divisions” (Bromberger, 302). Such ritual behavior can be seen in the fans depicted in the film “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait”. Although they are not the focus of the film, the fans can clearly exhibiting militaristic behaviors at many points. For example, at 57:46 we see fans waving flags behind Zidane, similarly to how an army might fly its standard or flag to try and rally its troops in battles. During the film you can also often hear the fans singing in the background (specifically at 6:51). Though the words are unintelligible, the intentions are clear, as the songs are meant to encourage their players, to will them to win. This again has a direct connect to Bromberg’s concept of soccer matches as ritualized battle, as armies often used music to rally, strengthen, and encourage their troops, just as the Real Madrid fans are doing for their players.

    War is often depicted as being a chaotic and violent event, and one could describe certain soccer matches in the same way, particularly matches pitting similarly skilled rivals against one another. Yet for almost all of the film Zidane stands in contrast to these ideas. He spends much of the film walking or standing, reading the field rather than directly engaging the “enemy” or the opposing players. When he does receive or win the ball, he is always confident, cool, and composed with the ball. He never looks particularly harried by the opposition. When watching Zidane play, there is no sense of chaos. The sequence from 18:40 to 18:57 particularly stands out in this respect, as Real Madrid has just cleared the ball from its defensive third. It would be very easy to turn the hurried clearance over to the other team and allow another attack, yet Zidane calmly traps the ball, slows the pace of the game, and starts the transition to attack for Real Madrid. The only time Zidane seems to become caught up in the “battle” is his final sequence, when he is sent off the pitch for engaging in a chaotic and somewhat violent altercation (Zidane 1:31:03), an ending the seems to stand in contrast with the rest of his match.

  24. Kevin He

    One of the cinematographic devices I felt the directors utilized powerfully was the manipulation of sound, which effectively cast the game into three different perspectives. Occasionally we experience the match as a television viewer, accompanied by the subdued commentary of the Spanish announcers who are broadcasting the match to the rest of the world. From this perspective, the sounds of the game itself are much quieter, the video quality is blurred, and it feels as though we are observing from a distance. Then, the sounds of the crowd burst to life, and suddenly we are the on-field observer, able to hear all the noises in the stadium – all the yelling, chanting, and horn-blowing. In full blast, we get a taste of what it’s like to be there on the pitch. But sometimes, as the game slows down and the pace grows weary, we catch a glimpse of what it’s like inside Zidane’s head. The crowd noises fade into the background as we can hear only the serene soundtrack, the shuffle of cleats on grass, and Zidane’s labored breathing. At 26:00 Zidane notes, “When you are immersed in the game, you don’t really hear the crowd. You can almost decide for yourself what you want to hear. You are never alone.” Perhaps the differences in sound are meant to mimic the ups and downs of the game – the rise and fall of pace, of favor in the game. But no matter how the game is presented, the same soccer match is being played out before us. The same touches, the same fouls, the same ritualistic cadence. Bromberger likes to think of soccer as representing “the uncertain fate of man in the world today” (296), each match representing a certain air of destiny. All participants of the game – the players, the fans, the commentators – bear witness to the same proceedings. Most of us, the bystanders and observers, have no control over the outcome. But, seeing the game from all these perspectives in the video, it almost seems as if Zidane and the players don’t have much control over it either. Zidane sports the same expression throughout the entire match, a serious look devoid of joy or apparent excitement. He does crack a smile around 1:20:00 in the film, a brief reminder of his humanity, but then slips back into character once again (and shortly after engages in a flurry of punches). His somber attitude seems almost to reflect a distance between himself and the game, like he is playing as a puppet master. Bromberger notes the importance of chance and luck in all sporting encounters (297), a factor that almost overshadows merit and talent alone. It is this uncontrollable aspect of luck that takes the reins out of the players’ hands. Sure, they can still steer the game in one way or the other, but each fall of the ball, each touch, has the non-negligible chance of going wrong. At 30:30, Zidane notes that “Sometimes when you arrive in the stadium, you feel that everything has already been decided. The script has already been written.” It’s fascinating that even a player of Zidane’s stature feels this way about soccer, seemingly confirming Bromberger’s notion that “football uncovers the meanderings of our made-to-measure fate” (299). It seems to be no mistake that when Zidane attempts to thwart fate, to alter the course of destiny in a heated passion, he gets thrown out of the game.

  25. Carolyn Fishman

    It is an interesting task, to compare football in general – as play, as a ritual, as an identity, etc. – to a film that follows one human’s experience through one solitary game, and not even through his own eyes.

    But maybe this is the point, that we don’t experience “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait” from Zidane’s perspective, rather we see it from every single other point of view. All of those other angles, literally camera angles in this case, shed different lights on football in general. Between the 17 cameras and the incredible soundtrack – although I must say it took re-watching several parts for me to even begin to understand the brilliance behind parts of it – the film demonstrates many different aspects of exactly what Christian Bromberger writes in his 1995 article “Football as world-view and as ritual”.

    One particular example of this is the notion of identity that Bromberger writes football gives us. On a broader level, there are the fans, each of whom has a team to support and identify with. We see this in the film time and time again as the sound editor expertly cuts in and out of music with quiet or explosive moments from the crowd. An example being at time {46:42}, when the soothing music suddenly cuts to the crowd screaming about a call. The fans are involved, something they “own”, some might call it pride, is at stake, a piece of their identity. Their team. This is why they react so intensely.

    Another way that the film portrays identity is from a player’s perspective. Despite not truly seeing the game as Zidane did, the viewers see his face, his reactions, his movements to everything going on around him; and yet it is still difficult to imagine what is going on in his head. Most likely he is thinking about the game… But in a truly beautiful moment in the film, {34:48-36:31}, all sound fades and the focus is on Zidane’s breathing. And then slowly what sounds like church bells and children playing is heard. One could associate these sounds with any player’s identity – a childhood game being played outdoors is something anybody can relate to. But the juxtaposition of those sounds and the vision of this now incredible athlete playing on the big field in front of the world shows a bit of who Zidane is. It is a dream for many, but it is a true identity for him.

  26. Saeed Alrahma

    Through Bromberger’s article “Football as world-view and as ritual” and the movie “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait”, one could clearly see that soccer is more than a game or a sporting event. Bromberger mentions that “every match between rival towns, regions and countries takes the form of a ritualized war” (Bromberger 302), which is clearly observed throughout the movie. Zidane didn’t smile, he was focused, and only celebrated when a goal was scored or the game was won. In addition, the fight at 1:23:43 is another example of how tense and important this soccer match is. The fans participate in the match as much as the players do on the field. They are always on their feet cheering for 90 minutes straight whether to help their team turn the table or keep a lead. The fans cheered every time Zidane touched the ball (e.g. Zidane Movie 13:30 and 19:20) because they were confident in his abilities and hoped that their cheers would intimidate the opposition the same way the trumpets intimidate enemies at war.

    Because soccer is more than just a game, the players’ reputation and personalities are equally important to their skills. Bromberger talks about the styles and visions of some teams such as “the panache Olympic of Marseille”s and “the Old Lady Juventus” (Bromberger 303-304). I the movie, Real Madrid’s vision could be observed through their players on the field. A combination of Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham, Raul, and Roberto Carlos on the pitch in white colors around minute 38:40 is a clear description of their style: we are a royal team that only signs the best of the most experienced players. These different styles of teams reflect the different standards of the world, where a victory for the Marseille team, for example, is a victory for the spectacular and a victory for Juventus is a victory of discipline.

    A soccer team is a representation of the city and/or country, where for many teams the way they play and present themselves is more important that winning itself.

    “Who could have imagined that in the future, an ordinary day like this might be forgotten or remembered as anything more or less significant than a walk in the park” (Zidane Movie 41:48)

  27. Leonard Giarrano

    After our first two lectures and watching Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, I would like to focus on soccer as a game of emotions and calculation as seen through Zidane in the documentary.

    To begin, I really like what Bromberger offers on the atmosphere of the game in stadiums when he focuses on the collective emotion of the crowd responding to the symbolism of local identity on the field. He says, “A football stadium is one of those rare spaces where collective emotions are unleashed … on the supporters’ identification with his city, district or nation through his team [sic]” (302-303). In my view, the emotions of the crowd are contagious. Being most familiar with college basketball, I have seen firsthand how Cameron Indoor Stadium fires up our team’s players and, hopefully, intimidates or unsettles the visitors. I have also seen, in basketball and other sports like soccer and football, how players will fire up the crowd by opening their arms to them, gazing upwards and smiling, or fiercely slapping the court, in the case of basketball. A part of me envies those who grew up in a city or town fiercely loyal to its soccer team (the Tampa Bay Rowdies do attract a modest following an hour north of where I live) because it is clear that any loyalty Duke fans have to our team, these populations sometimes have it tenfold.

    Bromberger addresses both the fierceness of fan loyalty and the reflection by teams of their homes on the game. When I was first getting into soccer by watching the 2010 World Cup, my favorite remarks from the commentators were those that told me about the reputations of different countries because I could then watch Germany’s machine, Brazil’s attacks, and the Spanish passing game with a grounding in the narrative those teams train on and build into their play style.

    From these play styles, we can see that soccer is a complicated game with a variety of approaches by teams, traditions in the sport, and structures like refereeing and international federations that affect the game more broadly. Bromberger says “this is because of the special place occupied by uncertainty and chance [in the game], due to the complicated techniques required by a game … and to the wide range of variables which need to be mastered in order to secure victory” (297). So in spite of fits of emotion—particularly Zidane’s from the 2006 World Cup—that some players inevitably, or frequently depending on the player, succumb to for their love of the game and sense of honor, it is impossible to deny that soccer is a long game of calculation and engagement with the opposing team. Zidane for most of the documentary’s footage is pacing and strolling about the field (15:30-45) with a very composed expression on his face (23:03), reading the other team’s collective movements. Anybody who has played anything from pick-up soccer to Duke’s club team knows how hard it is to both play the game yourself and try to keep track of all the movement and development going on for 90 minutes.

    As the Stylus Magazine review of the documentary puts it, Zidane moved himself around the pitch with a “preternatural level of anticipation.” He was to the game and to the position of midfielder as Michael Jordan was to basketball and Joo Se Hyuk was to the defensive style of table tennis. All three athletes in their prime played their position as well as anybody and went the extra mile in redefining it through their philosophy and record-breaking successes.

    Though MJ and Zidane are known by managers and executives for being producers of points, wins, and team accolades, for the fans of the sports it comes down to the artfulness and that je ne sais quoi that they brought to the game. One critical remark I have for the documentary is that I would have enjoyed it much more had there been more clips of the game as televised or even with stretches of side-by-side shots of Zidane as well as the whole pitch. I do not think it unreasonable that a viewer can only enjoy the beads of sweat on Zidane’s face for so long, and I think further appreciation of Zidane’s positioning and field reading could have been achieved by juxtaposing the two views.

  28. Megan Gutter

    In my investigation of the Bromberger article, I think the role of the spectator in football is worth noting. When comparing the Bromberger reading with the film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, it’s interesting to realize that while a great deal of what Bromberger discusses is about the spectator and how the spectator is a large part of what makes football a game worth studying, the spectators are very much in the background of the film.

    During a large portion of the film, we hear the crowd roaring, booing, or reacting to the events on the field but only as a secondary component to our focus on Zidane. We become attached to following him, wondering what he’s analyzing, and the crowd becomes to us what it must be to him… a homogenous blob of noise. Of course it seems natural that players would react to the energy of the crowd, but in the film it appears that Zidane’s sole focus is in his work and there is definitely no difference between one spectator and another to him. Just as the crowd is a blur in the background of Zidane, Zidane does not distinguish between any members of the audience. Sometimes we lose sight of the audience completely as the film shows a close up of Zidane’s eyes or a shot of his feet. No cheer is any louder or any different from one another. The sound of the crowd is replaceable in the film as it transitions between the noise of the crowd and the music or the faint commentary of broadcasters, which demonstrates how negligible the sound is to Zidane.

    However, Bromberger asserts that while people come together and an unusual sense of community is established that transcends hierarchal and social boundaries, there is indeed a discernment between some spectators and others. He states, “These groups and networks stand next to each other and form a complex structure, and not a shapeless and homogeneous crowd or mass, as is suggested by popular images or by Le Bon’s crude psychology” and that “The spectators themselves are not unaware of the way they are sectioned off from each other.” The distribution of these spectators is in itself a part of what makes football a ritual according to Bromberger. The presence of the crowd, while a background thought in the film, is an essential part to all football games. The contrasting perspectives on the audience from the view of a participant of the game and from the game as a whole or as a ritual is interesting, as the game could not be what it is without its loyal spectators.

    In addition, Bromberger delves a little into stardom and how different types of people tend to latch onto different types of players depending on the kind of work they do and their social status, mentioning that “allegiance to certain stars changes according to a complex play of affinities which more or less reflect social identities.” This concept is not portrayed in the Zidane film as it appears to the viewer that the entire crowd is pleased and is cheering when he has the ball. Despite that this is surely not the case in real life, we cannot distinguish otherwise in the film especially due to the fact that the entire film revolves around him. The film is created in a way that is sort of like from the perspective of an obsessed fan of Zidane, and in that way it makes the viewers of the film an obsessed fan of him, assuming a universal appreciation of him regardless of social background.

  29. David Stringer

    In Bromberger’s article “Football as a world-view and as ritual” he discusses the importance of fans in the worldwide sport of football and how they add to the ritual. The ardent support that football has achieved throughout the world has lead to the passion of the fans. As Bromberger points out, the fans themselves make their respective team part of their own lives, e.g. the Naples fans’ magazine Napulissimo which focuses on both the stars of the Naples team and the problems within the city itself (Bromberger 1995: 295). This level of passion among some fans of football is so high that they refer to themselves as “Ultras” (Brombergerer 1995: 300). This is a level of passion that deeply involves these fans with their given team. In our first class this was seen in the brief clip that Professor Dubois showed us of the reaction of Algerians to their national team’s success in the 2014 World Cup. This level of passion is not unique to soccer, just look at any super fan for an American Football team, but the passion is worldwide.

    The Film “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait” shows this passion of football fans, among other things, in its focus on Zinedine Zidane. The way the film does this is through the background noise. While the sounds of the crowd are not always present throughout the film, when it is present it is clear that their passion for the game is present. When Zidane gets the ball at 1:01:53 the fans begin to pick up as he dribbles through the defense to set up a cross for Ronaldo to score at 1:02:10. At the moment of the goal the crowd reaches its crescendo in noise and celebration because its team has scored. Although it is hard to hear over the background music, the crowd is still audible when Zidane gets sent of at 1:24:48, showing how involved in the game they are, even when one the players is sent off.

    Both the Bromberger article and the Zidane film show how involved fans get into a game of football. The reactions seen in the film back up the notions in Bromberger of how fans add tot he ritual of football. Without the passion given by these fans then there wouldn’t be the ritual of football as it is known today.

  30. Ben Jackson

    In the film ‪Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait‬, viewers get a very interesting and unique take on both a player and soccer match as whole. By following one player, Zinedine Zidane, and not the ball the viewer gets a better idea of how the soccer game is seen by Zidane and how he interacts with the other players, referee, and fans. Such a perspective allows for intuitive observations about the game and connections to pieces of literature. One connection I found between the film and Christian Bromberger’s article “Football as a Worldview and a Ritual” is during the “intermission” of the film where the soccer footage stops and a variety of different images are shown.

    During this intermission a photo is shown of people fleeing the seen of a car bomb explosion in Iraq (41:05). In the photo you can see a bleeding man carrying a scared, young girl running away from the disaster. Also in the photo though you see a man in a Zidane jersey running into the disaster. It is only a true hero who runs towards danger in order to save others and in the photo the man in the Zidane jersey is doing just that. I believe the creators of the movie put this shot in to show Zidane’s cultural impact as a hero, as the man in the photo personifies the heroic, selfless nature of which fan’s see Zidane.

    This exemplifies Bromberger’s quote in which he states “The popularity of sport lies in its ability to embody the ideals of democratic societies by showing us, through heroes, that anyone can become someone, that status is not conferred at birth, but is won in the course of a lifetime. ”In this quote Bromberger speaks to the fact that these heroic soccer players, like Zidane, who are idolized by many are seen as heroes do to their day in and day out achievements not their birthright. This belief that anyone can be anything and that ones actions not their sociomateriality make them who they are, are powerful and inspiring principles that fans attribute to Zidane. Such an ideal parallels the actions of the man in the Zidane jersey in the photo. The man is putting himself in harms way in order to help others, an action that “embodies the ideal(s) of democratic societies” and therefore defines him as the hero he is. The photo has a duality to it in that it shows both the heroic action of a single man while also showing the heroic perception of another.

    In conclusion, I think through Zidane the filmmakers were able to show not only an amazing soccer player, but the level of respect such a player earns. The simply cheers as Zidane touches the ball detail how he is a hero to these people. And as is demonstrated in Bromberger’s piece, as a hero Zidane embodies the ideals of a society and its citizens on a continual basis in a way that warrants such applause.

  31. Carrie Mittl

    To start my discussion, I would like quote Christian Bromberger from his article “Football as world-view and as ritual.”

    “If [football] does not tell us the slightest thing about where we come from and where we are going, it shows us who we are, by sanctifying the fundamental values that shape our societies: the identities we share or dream of, competition, performance, the part played by fortune, injustice and trickery in the progress of individual and collective life” (Bromberger, 311).

    Bromberger weaves throughout his discussion this argument that football is more than a pitch, the players, the passion, the club’s purse. Rather the sport reflects the intricate layers of human existence and the battles won and lost throughout our journey of discovering who we are.

    The film “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait” also illuminates this point. In the documentary, viewers, accustomed to watching a football match unfold from a birds-eye view, instead live each of the ninety minutes with the cameras focused on Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid and with only an outsider’s perspective of his performance. This perspective provides a glimpse into how football reflects the players, fans, and society as a whole as well as the values that shape who we are. He also compares the game of soccer to that of a religious ritual: “In general, definitions of ritual postulate the necessary combination of a certain number of substantive properties which distinguish ritual activity from more trivial regulated behavior” (Bromberger, 305). I am going to focus my discussion on the part of the definition that he defines as “the distribution of roles,” and how this part of the definition helps soccer reflect a ritual

    Perhaps the most important role in soccer is the player. Zidane is one of the most influential midfielders in football’s history. After following just his player in the game, Zidane’s refined skill, eloquence, vision, and immaculate first touches that graced his style of play impressed me the most. It’s surprising how little he touched the ball but how impactful these few moments were on the pace and flow of the game. For example, there is a moment in the game where he collects the ball with his chest, dribbles a few steps, and switches the point of attack (18:50). Everyday we run into moments that alter the decisions we make in the next moment. We might have an intended goal of where we want our day to end or how we want to feel when we get into bed, but sometimes it can feel as if these moments come and go with no pattern. The better we are at predicting these occurrences and being mindful of their existence, the more prepared we are as an individual to turn a situation into one that helps instead of hinders our purpose. In this moment in the game, Zidane had been watching and positioning himself several minutes in advance so that he could be best prepared when this moment comes. For as little as he touches the ball, he plays his role well because he maximizes every moment through vision.

    I thought it was interesting that Professor Dubois pointed this moment out in class because I had already written what I have above before we discussed it (Perhaps we both love the power of beautiful first touches). Anyways…

    The directors of the documentary focuses our attention on other roles that people assume in soccer as well. At 23:40, the cameras blur Zidane out and focus on the crowd. Viewers are made aware that these fans have the option of looking at the game through the perspective that the filmmakers force upon the viewers. More likely than not, however, the fans are focusing on the ball, for their role is to be a projection of the game’s energy. Furthermore, at 46:00, the game is watched from the top corner of the stadium, reminding viewers that the soccer game stretches beyond the confinements of a stadium. The story that was told that day almost reflected micro-chasms of life elsewhere.

    Just as religious ceremonies have people with specific roles and duties, so does soccer, and this quality helps support Bromberger’s definition because it stretches soccer beyond a “trivial regulated behavior.” Like religion, soccer gives meaning to an entity greater than ourselves and the roles we play.

    Excited for this class!
    Go Spurs, Go Panthers #KeepPounding
    Carrie Mittl

  32. Jeremy Roth

    In the piece, “Football as world-view and as ritual,” Christian Bromberger concentrates on soccer as an activity that resembles an ideological centerpiece in the lives of many across the world. A significantly interesting aspect about Bromberger’s work is his reference to both soccer and ritual’s fickle nature. Specifically, Bromberger deals with the notion of the “uncertain fate of man in the world today” and how that is represented in every game of soccer that is played (Bromberger, 296). He relates this notion of uncertainty to the game of soccer by referring to the “competition among equals” and the “changing nature of individual and collective status” (Bromberger, 296). The idea of the fickleness of a soccer game is clearly presented in the film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait by Douglas Gordon and Phillippe Parreno, which records Zidane for a full 90 minutes in Real Madrid’s match against Villarreal CF.

    Real Madrid, one of the most impressive clubs in Spanish soccer history, had one of the most star-studded line ups in the world in 2005, starring, just to name a few, Zidane, Beckham, Ronaldo, Raul and Roberto Carlos. Thus, it would have probably been expected for Real Madrid to take control of the game, especially given that it was played at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid. However, during the early parts of the film, it is in fact Villarreal who take the lead, while Madrid were unable to impose their will in the match. This then prompted the filmmakers to show a quote by Zidane that beautifully encapsulated the unpredictability of the game of soccer and connects to Bromberger’s notion of uncertainty. The subtitles appear as Real Madrid are about to take a free kick in a threatening spot in the Villarreal defensive third while still losing 1-0. Right before it is taken, the quotation of Zidane emerges on the screen and alludes to a previous instance in which Zidane could tell he was going to score before he even touched the ball. Right before the free kick was taken by Roberto Carlos, another set of subtitles appear on the screen saying his experience “was the first and last time” (Zidane 37:21). I believe this quotation expertly summarizes the game of soccer as something that is truly unscripted, as even arguably the best player of all time does not posses the power to foresee the outcome of his games.

    Finally, Bromberger’s reference of the fickle nature of the referee’s role in a soccer match was also depicted as the referee’s impact was felt in the film. After the film showed a replay of the presumed penalty, it seemed as though the referee called an unjust penalty against Real Madrid, as the Madrid defender seemed to have gotten to the ball first before he touched the Villarreal player (Zidane 31:23). This event showed the uncertain impact that a referee can have during a soccer match (Bromberger, 297). As a result, the referee is now depicted as almost an equal player with regards to the fickle nature of the sport, adding to soccer’s multidimensionality and unpredictability.

  33. Anne Straneva

    I was captivated by Bromberger’s “Football as World-View and as Ritual” and cherished the visual juxtapositioning of the Zidane film. In the following blog post, I will touch upon one aspect of the reading that I found most meaningful and will draw a parallel to the cinematographic rendition of IDENTITY

    Bromberger notes that soccer, “…celebrates merit, performance and competition among equals; in stark and brutal fashion, it points up the uncertainty and changing nature of individual and collective status.” (Bromberger 1995: 296) For the players, soccer offers a platform for social and economic mobility thorough the economic repercussions of visibility. The variance of skill and position is a reminder of the contingency of success of the collective upon the merit of the individual. In this way, the film is a reminder about how one component piece contributes to the play of the game. It is surprising just how little a star, signing a $66 million Real Madrid transfer fee, temporal time with the ball. It is a reminder of how razor thin blade between the individual and collective. Who has the allegiance of the crowd, the player or the team? Who is the crowd, an individual or community? The irrationality of rational relationships are at play in the world of soccer and spark internal reflection on identity.

    With respect to the crowds, Bromberger makes that statement that, “These are certainly anonymous hordes for whom communal fervor and the job of being united together against the opposition of at least temporarily anaesthetize any awareness of individual differences.” (Bromberger 1995: 295) The communal reactions, chants and clothing of spectators galvanizes a people to create a heighted sense of emotion and purpose. The soccer stadium is a platform for the collective emotion, but how does the collective relate to the individual? The danger of group think , counterweighted with tyranny that the individual must walk. The film provides the audio noise of the crowd, horns, chants, cheers and gasps. The immersive audio becomes white noise, a wall whereby players such as Zidane use to create the background noise they wish. This indifference to the noise around him and his focused nature on the play and subtle off the ball movements demonstrates ZIdane’s role as a player, team and spectator.

    Individual fans and players band together from varying backgrounds, languages, skill sets, experiences, history and transform into crowds and teams. The symbiosis and antagonism between the built form and the individual is noteworthy in the context of identity. In particular, the beauracratic hierarchy is physically manifested in the structure of the crowd into a definitive image. The common thread for both spectator and player is the desire for the magical and miraculous to unfold, both participating in fleeting moments of invincibility and visibility. This claim of visibility is mirrored in Bromberger,’s comment that, “A key aspect of modernity: the overwhelming significance of visibility. “ (Bromberger 1995: 302). Visibility is fundamental in identity, as identity is relational and most obviously defined through relational juxtapositioning; a definition through repudiation. The film offers a radical shift from the focal point of play, the ball, to instead the player. The visibility of the player shed visibility on the tactical and pace of the game. Specifically, I was captivated by the film’s focus on Zidane’s eyes. His reading of the game through physics, space, psychology and history provide a mirror to the viewer and challenge them to reassess their viewing of the game. This is complemented by the juxtapositioning of the standard tactical view of the game with TV. The visibility of a player is sacrificed by the economy of time and movement, but the successful result of effective time and movement with the ball is exponential greater than the fleeting seconds during the game.

  34. Tim

    I have a generally positive reaction to the film. The content and presentation of the film were unexpected, as I was expecting that the film would be a visual biography or clips from matches starring Zidane. Perhaps reading the blog post in advance would have given me a better understanding in preparation for the film. Focusing on Zidane for the entire match was an interesting, unique way for the viewer to experience a football match with its many ups and downs.
    I’d like to comment on a few scenes from the film and their connections to Bromberger’s article “Football as World-View and as Ritual”. First, Bromberger notes that “a spectre of chance…and from which emerges a sense of destiny, hangs over these sporting encounters” (297). Concerning the role of destiny in football, the narrator in the film (presumably Zidane) makes this comment at 30:39: “Sometimes when you arrive at the stadium, you feel that everything has already been decided. The script has already been written”. It is interesting that Zidane, a supremely gifted footballer and the actor in what can be considered ritual (football), acknowledges that the outcome can feel predetermined and governed by more than just skill. Perhaps he is alluding to what Bromberger calls “some realm beyond human agency…where issues of cause and effect are settled” (310). Second, Bromberger states that focusing on one particular section within a stadium presents the “danger of seeing the tree and not the woods, and thereby [one may] fail to see the special quality of the stadium as a whole” (300). He goes on to claim that the behavior of the crowd, in addition to the match itself, is important in evaluating football as ritual. Concerning the film, I felt that I was missing out on the spectacle of the crowd’s behavior as a result of the nearly continuous focus on Zidane. The chants and collective reactions were audible on most occasions, flags were visible, and there were several moments in which the entire crowd was visible (e.g. 55:00 and 1:18:15), but I didn’t feel as immersed in the match due to the film-makers’ approach. I appreciated the film-makers’ creativity in the presentation of the film and agree with commenter Jed Stone that Zidane’s stoic and calm demeanor was impressive. However, I feel as if I missed a part of the larger experience of the football match.

  35. Andrew Cho

    This post will explore the deeper significance of Zidane’s composed aura in the film in connection to Bromberger’s article. In today’s soccer, where fans often anticipate and cheer for emotions and theatrics, the world plays one of the most passionate, highlight-worthy games in recent times. Especially in our fast pace information age, an overreaction is more likely to make it to fans’ eyes than an under-reaction. Watching “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait,” we immediately see this difference in play through Zidane’s composure and stoic focus throughout the entire film.

    Bromberger argues that teams are often perceived as “symbols of a specific mode of collective existence” (303). In Zidane’s case, we could even suggest his individual self as a symbol and representation of French and Madrilenian personality (whether composure is truly France or Madrid’s character is another question). Because “sports through its heroes shows that anyone can become someone” (296), any youth growing up watching his or her idol will invariably associate the player to the team- in our case, Zidane to France or even Real Madrid. Even as a present example, one of the first words that crosses many people’s minds when asked about the country Argentina is “Messi.” Consciously or unconsciously, Messi’s personality and character influence the perception people have of Argentina. Zidane’s composed style and continued focus until the end whistle is an art and lesson for fans around the world not only about the sport, but also about his country. With also the fact that he was widely revered as one of the best players of his generation, his composed expression (23:00), touch (21:22), and reading of the game (1:02:00) reflected what people may have thought about national and club teams, the community he represents to the world. It was only appropriate and fitting that Zidane smiles once towards the end of the film (1:21:00), as a reminder that he too is human like everyone else and that anyone, any child growing up can become their idol.

    As an interesting related note, I would also like to add a personal anecdote. In 2006, I watched in Seoul South Korea lose to Swiss 2-0 in the final group stages in a game that could have pushed Korea to the knockout rounds. Switzerland’s second goal (77′) was a hotly argued one, as the offside flag was clearly up. The Swiss forward continued ignoring the offside, and a goal was scored amidst confused Korean defenders. Immediately after the game, Korean fans flooded FIFA’s website and accused president Sepp Blatter (Swiss) for fixing the officials. Of course nothing happened to the result of the game; however, an unfortunate lasting impression of Switzerland was left onto the Korean citizens. The one simple play of soccer effectively caused many Koreans to form prejudice against all Swiss people, not just the player and Blatter. We know this is obviously far from the truth- having been to Switzerland, I can affirm the Swiss are very honest and mannered people. But I think this illustrates the influence a single player can have representing their club or country.

    -Andrew C.
    Go Spurs! COYS

  36. Mousa Alshanteer

    Employing the exploitations of football as propaganda by the military junta of Argentina as well as the Fascist government of Italy, Blaise Pascal and Umberto Eco, among others, maintain that football is simply a means by which its observers are made to overlook the conflicts and tensions of everyday life. Nonetheless, maintains Christian Bromberger, a serious analysis of the functions of the game renders the discovery of several processes which defy any such single or reductive interpretation.

    Football, maintains Bromberger, represents livelihood and embodies modern societal values, hence the discrepancy between the futility of the game and the magnitude of the passions it provokes. The game, for instance, embodies such values in its celebration of merit, competition and performance. Similar to life itself, the game is beholden to the uncertainties of change and chance. The fans and players of the game attempt to ward off such uncertainties by means of several ritualistic practices. According to Bromberger, the definitions of ritual postulate some of the following properties, each of which are well represented within the game of football, especially as depicted within Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait:

    1. A break with everyday routine
    2. A specific spatiotemporal framework
    3. A symbolic configuration which lays the ground for the ritualistic practices

    The film Zidane depicts French football player Zinedine Zidane during a match between Real Madrid and Villarreal at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on April 23, 2005. Within the film, Zidane demonstrates a break with everyday routine, the first property postulated by the definitions of ritual. At the 10:00, 10:20 and 21:00 minute marks, for instance, Zidane is constantly shown digging his cleats into the turf, similar to a horse prior to exiting its pen during a race.

    The film similarly depicts a specific spatiotemporal framework within the game of football. Spatially, for instance, the fans are generally distributed within the precincts of the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium according to class, with most working class fans being seated behind the goals. Temporally, the film depicts Zidane focused on the football at all times, unfazed by the immediate sounds and movements. At the 15:30 minute mark, for instance, with every movement of his feet—jogging, galloping and positioning and turning of his body—Zidane is in sync with the football, its movements controlling his very own. Zidane gives purpose to his every movement, as if his positioning upon the pitch at any given movement is determinative of pace, trends and eventual outcome of the match. “His influence through strategic movement and well-observed positioning is awe-inspiring,” writes Paolo Cabrelli in his review in Stylus Magazine:

    “A fine reader of the game, in his last year Zidane seems to have existed on a preternatural level of anticipation. He waits for moments, exploiting them, turning them inside out. Almost everything he does on the field yields for him, having somehow reduced his art into physical economy. If he had kept on playing much longer, as he demonstrated against Brazil in the World Cup, Zidane might have turned every touch of the ball into a punishing one.”

    Even when in control of the football—dribbling, attempting to score, passing and crossing—Zidane maintains a stern facial expression, not because he is playing the game in the present but, rather, because he is doing so in the past. “The game, the event,” Zidane says in the film, “is not necessarily experienced or remembered in ‘real time’. My memories of games and events are fragmented.” Indeed, as a child, Zidane would experience within his mind a running commentary by television anchor Pierre Cangioni while playing the game of football.

    Within the game of football, the stadium is the symbolic configuration which lays the ground for the ritualistic practices. The film depicts such ritualistic practices, especially as performed by the fans. Their rhythmic and instantaneous chants, claps, stomps and songs, as depicted at the 17:00 minute mark, for instance, are some examples of such practices. More interesting, however, is the divine nature of the stadium itself. In Italy, for instance, the players never train within the stadium within which the Sunday match will be played. “Sometimes when you arrive in the stadium, you feel that everything has already been decided,” Zidane says in the film, suggesting that the divine nature of the stadium renders the outcomes of matches predestined. Indeed, Zidane’s belief in predestination offers an explanation to his stern, yet relaxed, presence upon the pitch. Even at the 32:30, 1:01:00 and 1:02:13 minute marks, during which Juan Riquelme of Villarreal scores a goal, Zidane assists Ronaldo to tie the score and Míchel Salgado scores the second goal for Real Madrid, Zidane maintains a stern facial expression, believing perhaps that all three goals may have been predestined.

  37. Arjun Jain

    Bromberger draws an interesting comparison between the ritual of soccer and the ritual of war noting, “Every match between rival towns, regions and countries takes form of a ritualized war, complete with anthems, military fanfares and banners wielded by fans who make up the support divisions and who even call themselves ‘brigades’, ‘commandos’, ‘legions’ and ‘assault troops’” (Bromberger 1995:302). The film takes this comparison to another level with war being waged on the field itself. The soccer field is where yellow cards can be purple hearts, wounded but still alive to fight on, where too many yellows certainly spell the death brought by a red card. A battle is won with a scored goal and the team who wins the most battles can be declared the winner. We can see this image clearly when a tackle brings down one of Zidane’s teammate. An unfazed commander, he proceeds to play the game, unhindered by anything as he has seen it all before. He is a battletested veteran of the highest order.

    Unflinching, Zidane looks on, asserting his leadership and while not part of every battle for the ball, makes his few count as is evident by his assist starting at 1:02:00. Even in the course of battle Zidane remains strong, using his superior skill and tactics as well as his size to prevent himself from being brought down at 1:15:34 when hit by another player. As a commander, through most of the game, Zidane is able to avoid the soccer field injury of a yellow card until the very last minute when the battle is surely won he gets caught in the final battle and is sent off with a red, showing that even one slipup in the course of the whole war can mean death for anyone. Where Bromberger asserts that soccer can imitate life, it seems that it can imitate death as well.

  38. R. Lewandowski

    In his piece “Football as World-view and as Ritual,” Bromberger draws parallels between a big football match and a religious ceremony that are apparent when viewing the film “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait.” Paramount among these similarities is the role of the “faithful”: the thousands of fans craning their necks in order to meticulously follow the bounce of a 16-ounce ball. Bromberger describes how the “faithful” can express their engagement in any number of ways, from chants and gestures to banners and pseudo-religious garb. Bromberger states that these activities are “codified,” suggesting that they are adopted as a part of a collective. Sure enough, “Zidane” leaves us little room to doubt the faithfulness of the “faithful” in this match. The film is peppered with the crowd’s periodic chants, banner waving, and other acts of engagement. For instance, we see rhythmic chanting erupt from the stadium in the 6th minute, and we catch a fan waving a banner in the 19th minute.

    In his analysis, Bromberger also captures an interesting tension in the way that the “faithful” can be characterized: a back-and-forth between the individual and the collective. Specifically, Bromberger makes a distinction between a singular fan’s particular emblematic accessories and the particular insults he might hurl at the opposing team, while also seeing that particular fan as a member of a “communion of minds,” an idea that harkens back to Durkheim’s assertion that the main purpose of a ritualized ceremony is “to secure the continuity of collective consciousness.” We see this tension at play in “Zidane.” For instance, we seed the crowd stand up and sit down all together in the 25th minute, a process that happens throughout the film. And yet, when the film’s commentary states that “you are never alone” in a football match (26th minute), the support for this statement comes from the singular rather than the collective. Zidane says he can hear someone shift around in her chair, a cough, a whisper, perhaps the ticking of a watch. That is hardly the perspective that we get when the cinematographer pans the camera outside of the stadium in the 54th minute and we perceive a single, unified mass. This tension is portrayed beautifully during the 27:40-28:00 time frame, where we see a back-and-forth between the camera viewing the members of the crowd as distinguishable persons and as a large blur.

    In spite of these parallels, the film “Zidane” lends the most support to Bromberger’s final claim: whereas a religious ceremony is characterized by a high level of constancy and stability, a soccer match is inherently fickle. This leads Bromberger to treat a soccer match as symbolic of modern collective life—where change and confusion is the norm. The film captures this sentiment in both word and picture. A soccer match is described as something not experienced in real time in both the 30th and 43rd minutes. Memories are “fragmented,” (30th minute) circling back to Bromberger’s characterization of modern life as “confused.” We see the stadium spinning in the 44th minute, and it momentarily goes blank in the 49th minute. Zidane’s quick, back-and-forth head movements throughout the film suggest that he is searching for meaning, planning his next move for the game. And yet, he feels as if the game has “already been decided,” so what good is the plan? (30th minute). Put one way, such is the game of life.

  39. David Talpalar

    After watching Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, a couple of significant comparisons stood out. The most evident was the different ways the movie was shot. By placing in 17 cameras into the Santiago Bernabeu, the producers could get an in depth look at Zidane. But more importantly, the 17 angles provided the viewer with 17 different ways not only to look at Zidane, but to think about him too. For instance, the up close shot of Zidane’s eyes at the 20:15 mark directly causes the viewer to consider Zidane’s thoughts. As Bromberger says, “a football match gives you as much to watch as it does to think about,” and this moment embodies that concept.

    Directly after this shot, a slightly zoomed out view of the referee gesturing towards Zidane with is whistle shows the interpersonal connection on the soccer field. Zidane says something to the referee, perhaps lobbying for the Villareal player who had just committed the foul to receive a booking. However, the referee’s whistle gesture demonstrates that he is in charge, not Zidane. This is ironic, considering that it is Zidane (and many of his teammates, in fairness), that carry so much influence not only on the field, but off of it as well.

    By the 21:20 mark, the camera shifts between two different images: one a slightly more distant shot of Zidane running with a few players around him, and the other of Zidane’s feet. In contrast with the shot of Zidane’s eyes, the shot of his feet displays the connection between the game’s physical and mental aspects. A player needs both in order to truly achieve greatness, as Zidane has. The more distant angle of Zidane and the Villareal players shows the impact that Zidane, and any soccer player, really, can have on a game of soccer. When you combine this angle with the roars of the crowd that accompany the video footage, it is somewhat of an awe-inducing moment–the game exists on so many different levels, whether it be from Zidane’s head, to his feet, to his teammates and the referee around him, or to the thousands of people watching in the stands, and even the millions of people watching at home, which are represented by the Spanish commentators.

    Speaking of the commentators, it is interesting to note that whenever they speak, the camera is withdrawn so that the viewers can see most of the field and a large amount of fans as well. This is not by accident. This camera angle shows the global impact that the match has. By showing this view, in comparison with the other views, directors Gordon and Parreno create “a philosophical dramatic tale, producing emotions with cognitive purpose,” which is exactly the phrase that Bromberger uses to soccer.

    Lastly, and perhaps most incredibly, this withdrawn view with the commentators shows just how small Zidane is in relation to the game. This demonstrates how remarkable it is that he can have such a big impact on the match–so big, in fact, that an entire movie is made up of just his movements–simple movements, but undeniably elegant and worth raising the hairs off the necks of an entire stadium, and sometimes the entire global audience.

  40. Mark Gilbert

    The creators of the film Zidane focus on Zinedine Zidane. What stood out to me the most was the crowd and how much affect fans can have on the game. You hear cheering when a positive play happens, and booing when appropriate. As an athlete, I can tell you from personal experience that those in the stands can have a lot to do with the success and downfalls of a team. With that being said, the affect fans can have on the success of a team is not the focus of this post. In this post the focus will be the emotion and passion that football brings to the lives of people around the world.

    In Bromberger’s article; “Football as world-view and as ritual,” he points out the intensity of passions that football creates. The Zidane film does not show much of the crowd, but we do hear them. The background noise of the fans gives the audience a great visual of Bromberger’s argument where he states “,Football fans are no different than anyone else, in that they are not fools nor are they deluded by their passions to the point of being incapable of maintaining a critical distance to the world around them.” Just from hearing them, we are able to grasp how much emotion goes into this worldwide sport of football. People all over the world live, eat, and breathe football. It is their life. They celebrate when their team is having success, and sob during the downfall.

    Bromberger’s also states that football has become a “planetary passion,” meaning that football is a sport that is loved all over the planet. When we see this we kind of already know and understand this statement without watching the Zidane film. We see all the time how people all over the world gather to watch their country in the World Cup or in the Olympics. Bromberger stated that the 1990 World Cup Football was the most watched event ever to be televised at 16 billion viewers. Football is played and watched by everyone all over the globe. Just how much emotion and passion comes with the sport is a question that may never have an answer.

  41. Dominic Elzner

    In “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait”, the film focuses all its attention on one of the best players to ever walk out on the pitch, Zinedine Zidane. The camera crew and editors make sure that for the majority of the film, Zidane is the focus of the viewer. It is hard to tell where the ball is, which team has possession, and generally what is going on in the match because of the intense focus on Zidane. In Christian Bromberger’s “Football as World-View and as Ritual”, he states “different sorts of fans can choose from a broad spectrum of contrasting players with which to identify” (Bromberger 1995: 297). The film does just that, focusing on Zidane more than any fan would if they were watching the game live. It allows fans of Real Madrid, or just fans of Zidane himself, to watch the beauty of his ability to play the sport.

    In “Football as World-View and as Ritual”, we also see Bromberger state that the fans desire to be acknowledged and they “develop strategies for attracting attention” (Bromberger 1995: 300). However, in “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait”, the crowd is not a factor at all to the viewer, or to Zidane. Throughout the film we could not make out a single fan, or see anything that they were doing for the attention that they crave. At the 26:10 mark, the crowd fades out, and Zidane says, “When you are immersed in the game, you don’t really hear the crowd. You can almost decide for yourself what you want to hear. You are never alone.” The film focuses on Zidane and replaces the crowd’s noise with music, and does so again at 51:25 and at 1:09:33. This allows us as viewers to imagine what is going on though Zidane’s point of view. However, the movie is too-orientented on Zidane, and as Bromberger describes, we “fail to see the special quality of the stadium as a whole, that is, not only as the site of a spectacle (the match), but also as a spectacle itself (the behaviour of the crowd)” (Bromberger 1995: 300). Without the crowd behavior shown, we do not get to see the whole ritual of football in the film, only the “micro” aspect of Zidane.

  42. Yuyi Li

    As I watched Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, I couldn’t help but notice the film’s ingenuous use of juxtaposition in framing football as a global ritual and narrative. Starting at 39:30, the film directors shift the focal point towards various global events that took place on April 23. The images juxtapose and evoke universal emotions that ultimately provide viewers with a glimpse of human vulnerability. These stories provide the audience with snapshots of a puppeteer, natural disasters, Elian’s Gonzalez’s speech on Cuban national TV, a tragic plane crash, a 48-hour reading of Don Quixote, video game releases, an eBay auction, scientific progress, biological phenomenons, mistakes, successes, war, diplomatic missions, and many more. After the display of these stories, the film directors shift the focal point back to Zidane on the night of April 23, 2005.

    I think this juxtaposition is a valuable display of a crucial point made by Christian Bromberger in “Football as World-View and as Ritual”. He asserts that the “fickleness [of the football match], engraved in the ritual, perfectly symbolizes two main aspects of our contemporary world: the uncertainty and frailty of values and destinies” (Bromberger 311). In Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, we encounter a juxtaposition of this “uncertainty and frailty of values and destinies” through snapshots of various global stories. The film’s juxtaposition of these stories is powerful because they portray the vulnerability of humanity through the course of a day — and in this case, April 23. The lighthearted optimism of a 48-hour book reading is overshadowed by the news of a violent car bombing. This shows that there can be infinite possibilities and uncertainties over the course of a day. Bromberger also states that “football can be understood as an infinite variation on the drama of fortune in this world” (297). This unpredictable fortune founded on merit and chance is further reflected by a football game, in which the outcome of the match is constituted not only by the merit of the players but also a myriad of uncontrolled variables (the players’s emotions, the audience’s energy, the referee’s calls, etc.).

    Moreover, I think the film does a good job of illustrating football as a symbol that transcends time. This concept is juxtaposed against those images of events that happened on April 23. For example, a quote appears on the screen after the stories stating that “we might imagine that a day like this (the Spanish Liga teams Real Madrid and Villarreal CF game on April 23, 2005) might be forgotten or remembered as anything more or less significant than a walk in a park”. However, at around 42:55 of the film, another quote appears, stating that “the game, the event, is not necessarily experienced or remembered in ‘real-time’”. Overall, I find it interesting that the film uses a football game as the event and connection between various global events.

  43. Rachael Humke

    In his article “Football as a World-View and Ritual” author Christian Bromberger addresses how soccer is viewed by the world and how it may be viewed from an anthropological point of view as a ritual. Fans are what make up the world-view of soccer. It is their continued desire to watch their team or favorite player that changes how soccer is thought about on a global level. Bromberger found in his study that fans tended to identify with players with similar social identities. To paraphrase, in Turin, the adolescents favored the aggressive Boniek and the calculating Platini was favored by manager and executives (297). We see this intent on a single player through out the film, Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait. The only time we see other players get involved is when they are close enough to Zidane to make it into the shot. As a viewer you come to appreciate Zidane’s style and grace to the point that a change in frame to include the entire pitch startles you (1:02 when Zidane assists in scoring a goal). Like these spectators we are given our favorite player just due to our viewpoint.

    Aside from this world-view we have Bromberger’s assessment of soccer as a ritual, points supported by the Zidane film. To begin, Bromberger equates “the great urban stadium… as ‘the shrine of the industrial world’” (307). What this means is that there is something almost religious about the stadium; that the stadium acts as a place of the unexplainable. In fact, there is a point in the movie where Zidane describes having a premonition about scoring a goal once when he was passed the ball (36:58). He just knew. I can’t imagine a more religious experience than that. Going along with the sacredness of the pitch is the scene at 44:38 where the camera is focused on Zidane’s shoes and the grass itself. There is something so serene in these moments with the combination of the cinematography and the choice of music that it feels as though you might be inside of a church. Finally there is a composite of what else occurred on the day of this match (39:34). What this addition demonstrates is the direction of thought of the masses, how the focus is not on everything else that might have happened that day but on this hour and a half.

    The main points of Bromberger’s article are to look beyond the mechanics of soccer and to look at the broader scope. The Zidane film demonstrated all of these sentiments but took it a step further. By focusing solely on one player the film-makers showed that these broad questions brought forward by Bromberger are in fact present at the base level of soccer. As viewers we are not able to see the game, we are limited in our ability to hear the crowd, we don’t even know the score for the majority of the game, but still the concepts brought forth by Bromberger are present.

  44. Stephen Kirchner

    The film Zidane is at times a great demonstration of what Bromberger meant when he called football a complex ritual, and at times a rather poor one. By focusing on Zidane alone for almost the entire film, it becomes easy to forget the stage the event is being played on. Bromberger suggests that the reason sports fans take such an interest in the game is because ‘it is not just because we want to know the final score or what sort of game it was, but because a profoundly significant game is being played out on the field’ (Bromberger, 294). However, Zidane show us almost none of that. Even though we can hear the crowd cheer (7:28) and see something of the crowd reaction at a goal (1:06:47), we are immediately thrown back into a look at an unmoving Zidane. He does not smile, he does not say anything, only claps and moves back into position. The film is entirely unconcerned with the wider ritual of football, and instead focuses on the player, the microcosm in which everything is played out.
    To view the film as a ritual like Bromberger views football, we have to examine the actions of Zidane alone. Bromberger defines ritual as needing ‘specific spatio-temporal framework’ as well as ‘a carefully programmed schedule of ceremonies recurring in a regular cycle, consisting of words uttered, gestures made, objects handled, with a view to achieving some transcendent ends’ (305-306), amongst other things. Even zoomed in on Zidane, we get the first. The Santiago Bernabeu stadium, where the game was played, is one of the gems of the football world, and indeed fits Bromberger’s description as a ‘shrine of the modern world’ (307). Zidane’s actions, though, are what drive the ritualistic nature of the piece. The easiest thing to observe is Zidane’s personal ritual of dragging his feet. Shown multiple times throughout the match (24:13 as an example) Zidane has a personal tick of dragging his toes across the turf. The purpose for this is unclear, but is the best indication of Zidane himself having a personal ritual within the game. ‘Practice is more common than true belief’ (309) according to Bromberger, and this seems true here; Zidane continues to drag his feet because it is what he does, a nervous repeated action, rather than anything momentous. Bromberger also notes that in the ritual of football ‘the solemn runs alongside the ridiculous; the tragic alternates with the comic, drama with parody, belief with skepticism, commitment with aloofness’ (310). Zidane illustrates this perfectly on his own. For most of the game, he doesn’t even touch the ball. He is a quiet observer, solemn and waiting, like the crowd. He seems almost aloof to the game, above it all, like it’s not really happening. But when he does get involved, and see the ball, the solemn does indeed run alongside the ridiculous. When Zidane gets the ball at the 1:01:56 mark, and sets up the assist for Ronaldo, it is indeed transcendent. And yet, still, even with a key assist to tie the game, Zidane shows no emotion, and does not change his face. He has played a huge role in the ritual of the game, and yet remains apart from it. Perhaps this is best explained by the context of the season, in which Zidane was forced to play one more for Real Madrid against his will. His otherness and aloofness then, are a byproduct of coercion. However, this makes the final scene of the game all the more puzzling. At the 1:21:29 mark, Zidane and Roberto Carlos share a laugh and a smile, but only two minutes later, at 1:23:40, Zidane flies into a fight out of nowhere, throwing punches before eventually getting sent off. This radical change in behavior is striking within the ritual of the game. Gone is solemnity, the committed aloofness. Instead, we see vicious behavior, and something totally out of sync with the game. However, this scene too plays into the ritual of the game. Even after a fundamentally incomprehensible act, Zidane is given a standing ovation as he walks off the field (1:25:40). That reaction fills Bromberger’s view of the football ritual perfectly: ‘If it does not tell us the slightest thing about where we come from and where we are going, it shows us who we are, by sanctifying the fundamental values that shape our societies’ (311). Zidane is so revered and lauded coming off the field because he has embodied, for almost 90 minutes, what the human experience is like. He is a bystander for most of the game, like we are for life, apart from a few moments of pure brilliance (and a few moments of pure emotion). That is what we want to see in football; we want that ‘magic’ that is so close to ‘nothing at all’. In that way, through examining the figure of Zidane alone, we lose the wider ritual of the crowd, but gain a far better understanding of the ritual of the individual attachment to the sport.

  45. Seth Johnson

    In discussing the primacy of ritual in soccer, Bromberger emphasizes that the competition on the pitch is a “complex interdependence of individual and collective destinies on the road to happiness” (1995: 299). When viewing Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait, though, the line between the individual and collective is blurred in a way that demystifies the ritual of the game.

    Throughout the film, the cinematography provides extreme close ups of Zidane, such as the one at 7:32, which blur out the background and put players, the pitch and the crowd in the stadium out of focus. Other times, the camera does just the opposite, blurring out Zidane to reveal the crowd behind him (27:58; 1:04:05). In the way that Bromberger characterizes soccer as popular entertainment that “helps blur people’s perception of their place in society and of their everyday problems” (1995: 294), the film does a similar blurring to the reality of soccer by focusing solely on Zidane, and not entire match.

    With too much focus on one aspect of the game—either Zidane or the crowd—there is a blurring of reality—literally with the blurred camera and figuratively in the distorted presentation of the game—that prevents the audience from fully grasping either the micro or the macro rituals at the stadium. In one sense, this develops Bromberger’s position about the stadium as a place of ritual. He states, “But by working in this small-scale way, one may be in danger of seeing the tree and not the woods, and thereby fail to see the special quality of the stadium as a whole, that is, not only as the site of a spectacle (the match), but also as a spectacle itself (the behavior of the crowd)” (1995: 300). Although this particular point is made about the stadium itself, it applies as readily to the match and rituals occurring at the game. Due to a heavy focus on Zidane and the individual instead of the collective, there is a blurred perception of the game that divorces “the tree” from “the woods” in a manner that swirls micro and macro rituals into a blurred reality.

    The same occurs when the camera swirls in and out of focus to blur the stadium and crowd at 44:20, because there is not a clear divide for the film between the micro focus on Zidane and the macro focus on broader pitch. It becomes difficult to develop a sense of location in soccer ritual because of the film’s narrow point of view. As Zidane says in the subtitled commentary at 26:15 – 26:30, “When you are immersed in the game, you don’t really hear the crowd. You can almost decide for yourself what you want to hear. You are never alone.” The audience of the film does the same, perceiving whatever rituals he or she is able to capture in the narrow presentation of the film due to the complex immersion.

    The sense of blurring in ritual also carries over to the distinct way that Bromberger classifies soccer as a “necessary co-operative effort on the road to success” (1995: 296). Since the aforementioned cinematography within the film focuses solely on Zidane, it blurs the line between individual and cooperative success; however, as shown at 1:02:05, the first Real Madrid goal is a team effort—Zidane places a beautiful cross to Ronaldo for the goal. In this regard, though the film may do an appropriate job of capturing Zidane as a player and an icon with his own micro rituals, it once again blurs the “complex interdependence of individual and collective destinies on the road to happiness,” because it is too narrowly focused on a singular player. Even when the television angle is adopted at 1:02:40 to replay the goal, the audience is only vaguely aware of macro rituals of soccer as a sport, and more aware of the actions and position of Zidane.

  46. Jed Stone

    Perhaps most interesting in the Bromberger article, is his attention to paint soccer as a pan-cultural ritual, so multifaceted that one cannot avoid competing arguments as they delve in. Such is the nature of a sport so engrained in the daily lives of people all over the world for whom it means more than just a source of entertainment. Among such arguments that I found myself tripped up in were the norms and standards that belong to each team. Specifically, a mold or motto that a team should stand for. Most poignant was that of Juventus for which Bromberger claims “On the pitch, it is essential for the players to look like lords.” This evoked two competing images of Zidane (a former Juventus player) in my head after watching the film. First, for most of the film I was impressed (and surprised) to watch such a pivotal player seem so stoic, casual, and quiet on the pitch. This portrait is quite in line with Bromberger’s assertion and can be seen at 22:03-22:23 among many other moments in the film. However, we then jump to 1:23:40-1:26:00 in which Zidane joins a heated battle (though much context is missing) and gets thrown out of the game. Though this opposition within itself is complex because while this may challenge the lord-like behavior he should maintain, the manner in which he walks off the field and the crowd receives him again raises him to this pedestal that is only befitting of a lord. Even after savagery, his fans love him and respect him and he leaves the pitch with pride.

  47. Christopher Daley

    Zidane: Talisman of the Galacticos

    This post will focus on how the film “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait” provides a window into a world in which the individual footballer – in this case Zidane – becomes an image that stands in for the values and ways of thinking that society has about itself.

    “The popularity of the sport lies in its ability to embody the ideals of democratic societies by showing us, through its heroes…. status is not conferred at birth, but is won in the course of a lifetime” (Bromberger 1995: 296). As the film presents the stoic, statuesque image of Zidane for the first time, it is immediately visible that this is the portrait of a man whose exudes an aura has been earned over a lifetime (4:52). We see a man at the end of his journey, not only based on the deeply-etched lines of concentration on his forehead, beginning to betray his age, but also by the ostensibly effortless way he glides across the pitch amidst the chaos around him. Even for those who do not watch football, taken simply from an aesthetic perspective, Zidane just seems to exert less energy than those around him. To return to the quote above, along with this hard-won status Zidane learned how to be wiser; or perhaps was wise enough to change his game – to work faster in his mind so he could slow the game down on the pitch – to play long enough to reach legendary status.

    Thus Zidane symbolizes the athlete on the other end of the long to success, but what becomes more apparent in this film is his unique position as someone who still remained at the pinnacle of the sport long after his reported “best-days” had long since passed. His gracefulness of movement now accompanied by a knowledge of the pitch developed through years of experience. To the fans in the stadium this aura translated into a feeling that with the ball at his feet Zidane could impact the game in an instant. This is important because as Bromberger states: “just as it can change the course of life, chance can change the trajectory of the ball against the run of play” (1995: 297). Zidane could perhaps be described as the talisman of the team for the fans; they looked to him to produce something certain – a goal, an assist, a key pass – from the uncertain – a game of football whose outcome is never predetermined. In other words, in the mind of the fans when Zidane had the ball, chance was on Real Madrid’s side and the fan’s anticipation of a goal was palpable. Almost as if pre-scripted, Zidane of course lives up to the billing in the film and provides a lovely lofted pass from the left for an assist to Roberto Carlos to tie the game, sending the home fans into a frenzy (61:54).

    For these fans, Zidane embodied the ideals of society and anchored their already ensconced belief in Real Madrid’s ability to defeat “the spectre of chance” (Bromberger 1995: 297). While the pitch may not exactly reflect the real world that exists beyond the stadium walls, a player like Zidane allows the fans to vicariously live the dream of defying the odds and overcoming the chaos of the world – or even the chaos of the pitch – to become an icon.


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