From Reuters (thanks to Jay Strell for the head-butt’s up) :

Italy defender Marco Materazzi on Monday denied a report that he had called Zinedine Zidane a “dirty terrorist” seconds before the French captain head-butted him in Sunday’s World Cup final.

“It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist. I’m ignorant. I don’t even know what the word means,” the Italian news agency Ansa quoted Materazzi as saying after the Italian team returned to Rome.

“The whole world saw what happened on live TV,” he added.

The Paris-based anti-racism group SOS Racism had earlier quoted well informed sources as saying Materazzi had apparently used the phrase.

“According to several very well informed sources from the world of football, it would seem that the Italian player Marco Materazzi called Zinedine Zidane a ‘dirty terrorist’,” SOS Racism said in a statement.

There’s no way to confirm the Italian side psyched out Fabien Barthez before last night’s fateful penalty shootout by calling him a Jay Glazer-lookalike.

Zizou’s agent is quoted in today’s Guardian as claiming Materazzi “said something very grave to him.” Making excuses after such a shameful epsiode seems rather out of character for Zidane, but the Fiver’s Barry Glenndenning and Paul Doyle point out that ” it was the 14th red card of his career, so he’s probably used to showering alone,” along with speculating about what, precisely, Materazzi said to provoke such a thumping.

Some have suggested that the Italian insulted Zidane’s mother. The Fiver wonders if Materrazi actually claimed to be Zizou’s mother, which would explain why the midfielder sought satisfaction in his bosom. But no one really knows. “I imagine that before you committed this irreparable, almost unforgivable act, Materazzi must have said the most terrible things to you, but it was a stupid end to your fabulous career,” sermonised L’Equipe editor Claude Droussent in a melodramatic front-page open letter to Zidane. Droussent went on to crucify the fallen idol for sulkily remaining in the dressing room during the penalty shoot-out, and then, as per all sanctimonious sensationalists, wondered if the footballer hadn’t dealt a fatal blow to civilisation as we know it: “What legacy have you left our children?” he scolded inevitably. “You must be very unhappy.”