Italian players question Materazzi ban

Italian players accepted Marco Materazzi's two-game ban without so much as a ripple during their vacations.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:36 IST
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Florence, Italy:

Italian players accepted Marco Materazzi's two-game ban for provoking Zinedine Zidane's head-butt in the World Cup final without so much as a ripple during their vacations. Now that the Azzurri are back from their post-World Cup break, they're starting to wonder how they remained so complacent. "The federation made the choice and my teammates and I only learned of it after it was done," midfielder Gennaro Gattuso said as Italy began training for 2008 European Championship qualifying matches. Materazzi's ban was handed down by FIFA on July 20, 11 days after Italy beat France in the World Cup final. Zidane received a three-match suspension for head-butting Materazzi in the chest, a foul which resulted in his ejection from the match. The punishment was moot because Zidane is now retired. Instead, the Frenchman agreed to work with children as part of a community service arrangement. "Marco didn't make any error. It was unfair. We players and the entire system should have done something," Gattuso said. Materazzi, who was judged to have verbally provoked Zidane, was banned from Italy's first two European Championship qualifiers. The Azzurri host Lithuania on Saturday and then visit France next week for a rematch of the World Cup final, which the Italians won in a penalty shootout. Italian player's association president Sergio Campana visited Italy's training camp on Tuesday and explained that the ban came in the middle of Italy's match-fixing scandal. "I think that in the middle of such a delicate situation, the federation didn't want to force its tones," Campana said. Still, the ban doesn't sit well with Campana. "There was prejudicial behavior toward Italy. The fact that (FIFA president Sepp) Blatter didn't award Italy in Berlin shows it," he said, referring to how Blatter skipped the World Cup trophy ceremony, delegating the duties to UEFA president Lennart Johansson instead. Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said it was "inconceivable" to sanction Materazzi. "To accept this punishment without asking for any explanation is not acceptable," Buffon said. "Certainly Zidane was provoked but every reaction has a provocation." (AP)