Friday, November 10, 2006

Zinedine Zidane delights villagers in Bangladesh

By SALIM MIA
Dhaka:

French superstar footballer Zinedine Zidane delighted thousands of Bangladeshi villagers on Tuesday with an impromptu show of his legendary skills.
Zidane was on a visit to the village of Kamar Basulia near the capital Dhaka to meet former beggars who had transformed their lives through tiny loans from Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus’s pioneering Grameen Bank.

“He is my hero. I never thought I would see him in my own village. I still cannot believe this is happening,” said 16-year-old schoolboy Zakir Hussain as he watched Zidane play from a tree top.

Zidane, who is on a twoday visit to the Muslimmajority country at Yunus’s invitation, was showered with flowers by the villagers. Some 10,000 people turned out to watch him play. “I am completely taken aback,” Zidane, a Muslim, told the private NTV television channel.

“I never thought that people living thousands of miles away in small villages here in Bangladesh would know who I am,” he added.

But he brushed aside questions about the notorious World Cup final incident in which he headbutted Italian international Marco Materazzi and was sent off minutes from the end of play.

“Much has been said about that episode and so I don’t want to comment anymore,” he said. Rahima Ahkter, 50, who began begging in 1976 after the death of her husband, told the footballer she took a loan in 2003 for $7 and began selling toothpaste and shampoo door to door.

Another former beggar, Mohammad Babul, also 50, told how he was able to give up begging after taking out a similar-sized loan to sell vegetables.

As well as meeting the former beggars, Zidane met women borrowers from the village.

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