Zinedine Zidane Partners With EA SPORTS as Latest FC FUTURES Ambassador
Hypebeast spoke with the French phenom about returning to his roots and championing the next generation of footballers at his Z5 facility in Aix-en-Provence.
Turn back the clock, it’s 1998. FIFA World Cup Final. Stade de France. Emmanuel Petit whips in a corner and Zinedine Zidane — head high, hopes higher — crushes the ball into the back of the net. Seconds before the end of the half, he does it again. France shakes as Les Bleus dethrone then-champions Brazil in a 3-0 rout for their first ever World Cup title.
It was a moment in time, but it was not the first time the French phenom had raised the World Cup. Dial the clock back 13 years earlier, La Castellane, Marseille. “I’ve won this cup a lot of times,” Zizou tells Hypebeast, “but it was in the streets of my neighborhood and the cup was in aluminum foil.” Fast forward to the present, the legendary midfielder returns to the neighborhood of his youth to provide the kids that were once in his shoes the opportunity to do the same.
In partnership with EA SPORTS, Zidane has been named an ambassador for the gaming giant’s FC FUTURES program, which sets out to support community football around the globe. The latest developments come at the heels of FC FUTURE’s launch, which took place at Rocky & Wrighty Arena in London’s Turnham Green with Arsenal and England legend, Ian Wright and English football manager, Emma Hayes.
“These kids are me 40 years ago.”
Housed at Zidane’s Z5 facility in Aix-en-Provence, FC FUTURES will aid in funding fields, training sessions, along with coaching and development for underprivileged kids in the area. “For me, it was very emotional,” Zizou recalled. “To see these kids, ages seven to ten from my real neighborhood — the one I grew up in — these kids are me 40 years ago. So to see them playing on the pitch with a legend like David Beckham and myself, so happy on the pitch, is a real achievement.”
Marseille is something of legend in footballing terms. In addition to Zidane, France’s second largest city has also paved the way for greats, such as Eric Cantona, Frank Leboeuf, Samir Nasri, Lucas Hernandez, the list goes on. Unfortunately, Marseille is also known for its crime.
Zidane, who is of Algerian descent, grew up in the impoverished suburb of La Castellane, where danger lurked around every corner. Known to the locals by his middle name, Yazid, the apartment he grew up in was so small, that he and his family members traded turns sitting down to eat meals. There’s a certain deprivation that breeds toughness, its a credo that translates across all sports. It certainly did for Zizou, who has carried the spirit of La Castellane and the city of Marseille, as a whole, in each chapter of his life.
“It’s a long journey. We’re going to lose some of them.”
Transcending the realm of football, Zidane has always been a legend off the pitch as well. In addition to his various Z5 facilities helping kids through sport, he recently returned to his hometown to open a medical center, telling local reporters, “my heart is still here.
In terms of FC FUTURES, the program isn’t just available for those in London or Marseille, however, as it features a free-to-access library of videos, produced in six languages with the help of expert UEFA coaches, and available on the EA SPORTS FC YouTube channel. Training includes football fundamentals, from passing to dribbling control, 1v1 defending and finishing accuracy, as well as virtual and real world drills by ex-professional footballers and coaches.
“We believe FC FUTURES can provide access and unique tools to inspire the next generation of grassroots players,” said James Salmon, Senior Director, Brand at EA SPORTS. “Working with UEFA’s Grassroots team has enabled us to deliver innovative training practices, providing coaches with new methods to engage players, grow their knowledge of the game and improve their technical development.”
While sports serve as a beacon of hope, a platform to spring off of, the sad reality is many dreams simply do not come true. “For these kids, it’s a long journey. We’re going to lose some of them, because they come from a difficult neighborhood,” Zizou tells Hypebeast. This latest partnership with EA SPORTS seeks to guardian the next generation, not merely in football, but in “life.”
When asked what his advice for the next generation would be, he passionately affirms what we’ve been told many a times: “Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. Follow your passion.” It’s just as important to “be yourself” along the way. For Zizou, he was and still is a proud son of Marseille.