Zinedine Zidane has apologised for his headbutt on Italian defender Marco Materazzi in Sunday’s World Cup final, but the Frenchman said he did not regret his actions.

Zidane claimed on television that Materazzi provoked him by insulting both his mother and sister.

“It was inexcusable. I apologise,” said the 34-year-old Zidane. “But I can’t regret what I did because it would mean that he was right to say all that.”

Zidane was sent off for headbutting Materazzi during extra-time in Sunday’s final in Berlin.

“It was seen by two or three billion people on television and millions and millions of children were watching,” he said.

“It was an inexcusable gesture and to them, and the people in education whose job it is to show children what they should and shouldn’t do, I want to apologise.”

Asked why he had reacted in such a violent fashion, he said Materazzi had directed some “very hard words” at him.

“You hear them once and you try to move away. But then you hear them twice, and then a third time,” said Zidane.

“I am a man and some words are harder to hear than actions. I would rather have taken a blow to the face than hear that.”

Zidane also called for Materazzi to be punished for his part in the incident.

“We always talk about the reaction, and obviously it must be punished. But if there is no provocation, there is no need to react,” he added.

“Above all it was a very serious provocation. It was an inexcusable gesture but the real culprit is the person who provoked it.

“Do you imagine that in a World Cup final like that with just 10 minutes to go to the end of my career, I am going to do something like that because it gives me pleasure?”

Materazzi responded by denying he said anything about Zidane’s mother.

“I didn’t mention anything about religion, politics or racism,” he said.

“I didn’t insult his mother. I lost my mother when I was 15 years old and still get emotional when I talk about it.

“Naturally, I didn’t know that his mother was in hospital but I wish her all the best.

“Zidane is my hero and I have always admired him a lot.”

Fifa is to investigate Zidane’s sending-off and president Sepp Blatter has suggested the France star could be stripped of the Golden Ball award he won after being voted the best player of the tournament by journalists.

Zidane confirmed that he would not go back on his decision to retire from football.

“This is a decision I have made and I will not go back on it,” he said. “This is definite. I will not play again.”