Zidane advises youth to rise above provocation

"In life you make mistakes. That is how you grow. I would not advise youngsters to respond the way I did (to provocation)."

Zinedine Zidane at a media conference in Mumbai.   -  Vivek Bendre

Zinedine Zidane feels Real Madrid's UEFA Champions League win is only the start of things to come, and is tipping Belgium to excel at Euro 2016 when he spoke at a round-table discussion, initiated by Kanakia Spaces, in Mumbai on Friday.

The French football legend, now learning the ropes as a manager with Real Madrid, advises players at the Spanish club to avoid reacting against provocation by rivals the way he did at the 2006 World Cup final.

Zidane was asked about the advice he gave to the stars in the Real Madrid squad in the face of provocation by opponents, who want to make them lose focus. “I am not happy with what happened (head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi to be sent off in Berlin). Italy won the title 5-3 on penalties.

The French icon explained: “In life you make mistakes. That is how you grow. I would not advise youngsters to respond the way I did (to provocation).”

Zidane’s unique achievements include winning the Champions League as player and manager, in Real Madrid colours.

He will be tracking Euro 2016 action, being played in France, very minutely to pick up tactics and strategy. He disagrees with the perception that shortage of experience at the European level will hurt the home team's prospects. “There is no tension playing at home. The support is overwhelming, like having the 12th player.”

He picks out Belgium as the team to beat. “Belgium has quality in the squad on paper, looking at the teams now when the tournament is in its first stage. They need to produce form on match day,” said Zidane, refusing to get into a debate over selection by France, with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema critical of manager Didier Deschamps after being left out.

French hopes rest on young shoulders. Juventus playmaker Paul Pogba for example, is looked upon as the future of the nation. “Youth is a positive thing, they keep fighting (for victory).” Anthony Martial, Antoine Griezmann and N’Golo Kante are other exciting faces at Euro 2016 for the host nation.

Zidane explained: “Look at our team which won the title (Euro 2000). We had a young squad then,” Deschamps was captain in a 2-1 final win over Italy at Rotterdam. The French squad included Marcel Desailly, Laurent Blanc, David Trezeguet, Thierry Henry and Patrick Viera.

He is hopeful of football overshadowing other aspects at Euro 2016 like racism and security concerns due to the terrorist attacks in Paris. “Personally, I have never faced racism because I belong to a mix of backgrounds (born to Algerian parents and raised in France), but it should never happen in football or life.”

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