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ROME, Italy -- Italy defender Marco Materazzi has broken his silence over the verbal exchange that led to his violent World Cup final clash with French star Zinedine Zidane.
Materazzi was sent crashing to the turf by a Zidane head-butt near the end of extra time of the July 9 final in Berlin following a verbal altercation.
Materazzi told Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday that it was a remark he made about Zidane's sister that provoked the French captain's moment of madness.
Zidane was sent off and Italy went on to beat France in a penalty shootout to lift the trophy.
Inter Milan center-half Materazzi was given a two-match ban by world governing body FIFA.
Materazzi said that when Zidane offered to give him his France jersey after the final whistle, in response persistent shirt-tugging by the Italian, he had replied: "I would prefer your sister."
Materazzi insisted however that he should not blamed for sparking the incident. "I did not cause it," he told Gazzetta. "I answered verbally with a provocation to defend myself.
"Yes, I was tugging his shirt, but when he said to me scornfully 'If you want my shirt so much I'll give it to you afterwards' is that not a provocation? I answered that I'd prefer his sister, it's true.
"It's not a particularly nice thing to say, I recognize that. But loads of players say worse things ... I didn't even know he had a sister before all this happened," added Materazzi, who is suspended for Italy's Euro 2008 qualifying rematch with France in Paris on Wednesday.
Zidane was given a three-match ban for his part in the spat, but as he had retired from football he was made to do three days of community service instead.
Materazzi criticized FIFA for what he felt was favoritism shown towards the Frenchman.
"I only know that I was the one head-butted and I got a two-match ban," said the Inter Milan defender.
"I would have done three months or even three years of community service to be on the pitch at Saint Denis on Wednesday, but I definitely count less than Zidane."
The Italy defender said that while he had told FIFA he was willing to make a gesture of reconciliation with Zidane, he was not going to apologize.
"He has not apologized to me and I certainly don't have to apologize to him.
"If anything, I owe apologies to his sister, although I swear, before all this mess I didn't even know Zidane had a sister," he said.
Materazzi said that he thought the two could put the incident behind them.
"If peace can be made after terrible wars can Zidane and I not make peace? A peace between men, without much publicity, certainly yes.
"The door of my house will always be open to him and if he wants, Zidane knows how to find out my address," said Materazzi.
Materazzi's provocative remarks prove too much for Zidane in the World Cup final.