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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Qatar Removes Statue of Zidane’s Head Butt After Complaints

A statue depicting the famous head butt that ended the career of the French midfielder Zinédine Zidane was installed in the Qatari capital, Doha, this month.Karim Jaafar/Agence France-Presse â€" Getty Images A statue depicting the famous head butt that ended the career of the French midfielder Zinédine Zidane was installed in the Qatari capital, Doha, this month.

Just four weeks after Qatar’s Museums Authority unveiled an unusual work of public art â€" a 16-foot high statue of the French soccer star Zinédine Zidane head-butting the Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest during the 2006 World Cup final â€" the exhibition, which was supposed to have been permanent, has been called off.

Agence France-Presse reports that the Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed’s monumental sculpture generated an angry backlash on social networks from religious conservatives who complained that glorifying the infamous act of violence set a bad example for the youth of the emirate and bordered on idolatry.

Ali Khanan, a Pakistani resident of Qatar, captured an image of the vast sculpture being carted away on Monday afternoon.

A spokeswoman for the public art authority, which is overseen by a daughter of the ruling emir, told Doha News that the statue, “Coup de Tête,” had been moved to the Museum of Modern Arab Art in the Qatari capital which is currently hosting an exhibition of Mr. Abdessemed’s art.

French television video of Zinédine Zidane butting Marco Matterazzi in the chest near the end of the 2006 World Cup final.

Since it depicts a memorable moment from a recent World Cup, the sculpture could be said to draw together two ways in which Qatar, which is slated to host that competition in 2022 and has a growing reputation as an art hub, has attempted to use its national fortune to make a mark on the world stage.

Then again, the backlash against the work could also illustrate that, as Rooksana Hossenally observed last year, “the Qatar art scene may be partly stymied by a disconnect with its local audience.” Ms. Hossenally reported at the time, “At the Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the Qatar Museum Authority’s gallery in Kartara, locals interviewed about the show said they failed to understand it, and one even said: ‘We find it ugly. We don’t understand why so many people come to see this work.’”

As Doha News also reported on Wednesday, the Qatar Tourism Authority just announced a plan to use the top flight club Paris Saint-Germain, purchased recently by the emirate’s sovereign wealth fund, to promote the country as a tourist destination to Europeans. That deal follows the release, in August, of a television commercial for Qatar Airways that features all of the stars of F.C. Barcelona, the Catalan club with a massive global following, whose shirts now bear the airline’s name.

Despite the popularity of the game in the region, some soccer fans had suggested earlier this month that it was perhaps an odd idea to give a statue that commemorates a shocking act of violence from a French player of Algerian origin such a prominent place in the Qatari capital.

Before it was purchased by the Qatar Museums Authority, the sculpture was exhibited without objection in France and then in Italy.

Mr. Zidane’s victim, the Italian defender whose theatrical flop to the ground after the butt helped his nation to win the cup by getting the French star sent off, posed happily at the base of the statue in both locations.