ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- Zinedine Zidane said on Wednesday he was provoked into head-butting defender Marco Materazzi during the World Cup final because the Italian insulted his mother and his sister.
In an interview with television channel Canal Plus, French captain Zidane apologized to children and fans but did not regret the attack that led to his sending off.
"He (Materazzi) pronounced very tough words about my mother and my sister. I tried not to listen to him but he kept repeating them," Zidane said.
"I knew it was my last game and I knew that there were only 10 minutes to play but things happened very swiftly", he said.
"I am a man before anything else," he added.
Zidane reacted to the insults by ramming his head into Materazzi's chest in the second period of extra time of the match that ended 1-1 and saw Italy triumph in a penalty shoot-out.
Widely regarded as the greatest player of his generation and playing the last game of his career, Zidane was shown a red card, leaving his team-mates to finish the match without him.
He denied Materazzi called him an Islamic "terrorist", as was reported by a Paris-based anti-racism group.
Zidane is of Algerian origin. His parents were born in the village of Aguemone in the Kabylie region.
FIFA decided on Tuesday to open a disciplinary investigation into the incident and Sepp Blatter, head of soccer's ruling body, hinted that Zidane could be stripped of the tournament's best player award.
The French playmaker said he was ready to face any disciplinary hearing and stressed that he was confident about the outcome.
"If someone can read (Materazzi's) lips, they will show that I'm telling the truth. The one who is really guilty must be punished," Zidane said.
"I don't want to attack anyone but I want to defend myself. I did something wrong and I was punished for that. I ended up alone in the changing rooms", Zidane said.
"But I was the one who was provoked and I reacted. It is always the one who reacts who is punished, never the one who provokes and this is not fair," he said.
Zidane apologized for his behaviour but he said he could not regret it.
"I know this is something that one should not do. I want to say that loud and clear because it was watched by two billion people and by millions of kids", Zidane said.
"I want to apologize to them but I can't regret what I did because it would mean that he (Materazzi) was right to say what he said.
"I have taught my kids to respect people and I have taught them that they deserve to be respected in return. I couldn't let something like that be said whout any reaction."
Blatter, meanwhile, was quoted as saying in an interview in Rome's La Repubblica newspaper: "FIFA's executive committee has the right and duty to intervene when it sees behavior that is contrary to sports ethics."
Asked if Zidane risked being stripped of the award for the World Cup's best player, Blatter said: "Before we make any decision we have to await the outcome of the investigation.
"Being presumed innocent until proven otherwise is sacred principle."
But he added: "Seeing him behave this way really, really hurt me."
FIFA's Golden Ball award was decided by media at the World Cup with the voting finishing before the halftime interval in the final.