He may have become famous for being on the wrong side of a Zinedine Zidane headbutt but to his fans, that episode doesn't seem to matter one bit.
So when Marco Materazzi entered the Cooperage Ground here on Saturday to witness the final of a '5-on-5' youth football tournament, the 500-odd boys present at the venue were thrilled. They pleaded for a chance to shake hands with their favourite defender. A few of them, donning Inter Milan jerseys, screamed out his name till he greeted them.
The kids pushed and shoved each other, just to get a photograph of, or with, him. The bouncers tried their best to keep the iconic footballer safe and secure, but the boys wouldn't relent. Of course, it's not often that a World Cup winner descends on a city that doesn't even take football seriously. Some of the boys had the cheek to chant 'Zidane, Zidane'. Thankfully, a few others outshouted them with 'Marco, Who? Materazzi' chants.
When he was called to speak to the players before the final, all he said was, "It's normal. For a footballer who has played two World Cups and two European Championships for Italy, being in pressure situations must be mundane."
Happy with the quality of football he witnessed, Materazzi said, "I was very enthusiastic because when I was a little child, I grew up with a ball. The good thing is that today everyone wanted to win, but the best thing today is that football won."
Also present at the event was India captain Sunil Chhetri. The enigmatic striker was dwarfed by Materazzi. Speaking about his favourites at the World Cup, Chhetri said, "I'm a Spain follower, because I support Barcelona. But I think Brazil and Argentina are going to be the favourites. But at the same time, you can never bet against teams like Germany, Italy, and Spain because they are champion sides. I think these five teams are going to be very strong, with Uruguay being the dark horses."