Collison left the Upton Park pitch in tears on a night when his brave decision to return to the business of playing football for West Ham just two days after the death of his father was rewarded by mindless contempt from his own fans.
Zola did not expect Collison to be available for selection for the Carling Cup match with Millwall as he continued to grieve.
However, the player declared himself ready and he took to the field, showing composure and character in helping his side to a 3-1 extra-time success.
"[Collison] showed what kind of boy he is by playing," said Zola. "Not many would have done the same thing.
"It's certainly not good for football. I was completely shocked. Totally. I knew it was a game that meant a lot for the two sets of supporters, but I didn't imagine it like this.
"What can I say? I'm a sport man. I love the game. I love to go on the pitch and try and make it exciting for the supporters and enjoyable for everybody to watch. This was beyond my powers."