Handball Henry

The Republic of Ireland team have probably every right to feel hard done by a player the Arsenal faithful would always be indebted to. With Thierry Henry’s deliberate attempt to control the ball in the box, he capitalized on the Irish defence’s confusion to allow William Gallas to score France’s goal that would send them South Africa. The handball incident that marked the end of the 2009 World Cup qualifiers was probably the most talked-about incident in world football – not Slovenia’s humiliation of mighty Russia led by Guus Hiddink nor Otto Rehhagel’s generically defensive doctrines that won the day.

Sure, Henry has since owned up and he was likely thinking that ‘Les Bleus’ aren’t that great at the moment and probably not good enough to beat Ireland at their own turf. Rather than incurring the wrath of France’s fickle and heartless fans and suffer the ignominy of losing at the venue of their once greatest triumph, the Stade de France, Henry would have probably gambled and he was lucky that France got away lucky.

Having said that, it would have drawn comparisons to Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God‘ goal and even Arsene Wenger agreed that France should be embarrassed to win that game by such a scrappy goal. As a neutral, I think that such decisions are alarm bells for the future of the game. If the Oranje were playing (in place of the Irish) and lost in this way, I should think that the strains of ‘La Marseillaise’ would not sound that sweet anymore.

The reason Henry got such stick is probably two-fold: For a player his calibre and technique, he should find little trouble containing the ball in the box and dispatching to Gallas the same. Also, the fact that probably the whole stadium saw him reaching out to tamper the ball into his favour was a lasting image of Henry the cheat and not Henry the King of Gunners. Having said that, I’d also bet that Robbie Keane would have loved to do so at the other end of the pitch in similar manner. Remember Roy Carroll and his ‘save’ that robbed Spurs of a famous win at the Old Trafford, the Theatre of Wet Dreams? Would you honestly think that Carroll would have now come clean and say that it was a legit goal and that he had cheated? Footballers would cheat given the chance. Eduardo tripped against Celtic in the 6 yard not too long ago and even manager Arsene Wenger thinks that it may not have been a penalty. Another Frenchman, David N’gog also flew into the air to win a penalty to hopefully salvage Liverpool’s season.

I’ve no further comment on this issue – just that cheating teams are out there and that if shit happens, then that’s life and that’s football. Get used to it, I guess…      

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