No butts about it

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

It has been three years since Zinedine Zidane threw the most famous head butt in soccer history.

A day shy of his 37th birthday and looking like he just walked off the pitch, Zidane made an appearance at the Mississauga Sports Hall of Fame yesterday to announce the rosters for Thursday's Zidane and Friends exhibition at BMO Field, the first of three contests that will take place across Canada.

The series moves to Montreal on Sunday and finishes up in Vancouver on July 4.

Zidane is fluent in a handful of languages, but English isn't one of them so the question-and-answer period yesterday was conducted in Spanish and French.

Zidane, a member of the FIFA 100 -- the greatest living footballers as chosen by Brazilian legend Pele in 2004 -- was accommodating in both.

Foremost on the minds of his inquisitors was his reason for taking part in this venture.

"I think we all realize in Europe that soccer is not the No. 1 sport in Canada, but, at the same time, when one is young, it is, I think, the sport most played," he said.

Zidane is well aware that this passion for soccer at a young age is soon overtaken here by the more mainstream pro sports like hockey.

He is hopeful that by exposing people to soccer at a very high level, some of those young players will stay with it into their adult years.

The French midfielder will be teamed with former Croatian striker Dado Prso, who finished his career with Rangers in the Scottish Premiere League.

The Vancouver stop appears to have the best stocked Zidane team of the three exhibitions.

For that game, Zidane will be joined by Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon, the striker extraordinaire with FC Barcelona. Manning the sidlelines will be none other than former Italian national team coach Arrigo Sacchi.

Providing the opposition for Zidane and Friends at all venues will be a team of Canadian all-stars -- essentially top level players from the three regions hosting games.

Zidane has long since put the head-butting incident with Italy's Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final behind him.

He currently is in the process of taking over sporting director duties at Real Madrid -- his old club -- which is no small job these days.

Madrid recently added world soccer heavyweights such as Brazil's Kaka and former Manchester United standout Cristiano Ronaldo, so his plate is full.

But for the next couple of weeks, Zidane's focus is this series of exhibitions as Canadian soccer fans get the opportunity to experience his wizardry on the pitch.

Tickets for all three games can be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.ca.

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ROSTERS

Zidane's Team

Zinedine Zidane, Prso Dado, Palermo, Mattia Lorini, Beibel, Rebrov, Milosevic, Belloumi, Jugovic, Carlos Quiroga, Giuseppe Pallavicini, Paolo Beruatto, Antonio Asta, Giovanni Lorini, Francesco Vincenzi

Canadian All-Stars

Calum Hill, Jesse Mahal, John D'Amato, Julian Uccello, Linford Reid, Lorence Notaro, Marcel Debellis, Micah Uemura, Michael Rinzema, Richard West, Steve Elias, Wu Yiu-Kwok, Yannick Lewis, Diego Fuser (Italy), Gianluigi Lentini (Italy), Roberto Maltagliati (Italy)


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