It has been all about Thierry Henry and his “Hand of God” this past 24 hours. Articles, comments, they are everywhere, lambasting the striker for his role in the controversial equaliser. I am a Gooner, and Henry scored the goal which mesmerized me into pledging my allegiance to Arsenal. Without a doubt, he is my favourite player of all time. But i make it a point to be as impartial and objective as i can in my writing.
Firstly, it is true that there was no guarantee that Ireland would have won the tie had the goal been disallowed.As much as Ireland’s fighting spirit moved us, the numbers tell the whole story. 5 attempts at goal compared to France’s 15, with the shots on target statistics even more appalling , and 43% possession, the fact is Ireland were inferior. Yes, Domenech has made a mess out of the French team, and there is a good chance they may not even make it past the group stage, but on the night, statistically, they were the better team.
Now, onto Thierry Henry. Was i disappointed to see him do what he did? Absolutely, and i still am. After all, he has been a consistent advocate of fair play and anti-racism, and for him to do something like that is unthinkable. This is an excerpt of his post match statement.
“It was a handball, but I’m not the ref. I told (the referee) but he said to me the same: ‘You are not the ref.'”
The skeptic in me says he’s lying. But, if there was even the slightest possibility that he was telling the truth, would the blame not fall on the referee and his team of assistants? Therefore, it doesn’t seem fair to pile the blame solely on Henry. The ref did not do his job, and part of the blame must fall on his shoulders.
Henry is 32, and this could very well be his last World Cup. I urge you to look at it from his point of view. Nothing, absolutely nothing could justify robbing a nation of her chance to play in the World Cup. But, i’m not asking for forgiveness. I’m asking for understanding. The ball struck his hand, and right there, he had a decision to make. Play the ball and pretend nothing happened, or stop play immediately. He took option number one. And as soon as Gallas scored, he was faced with another moral dilemma. Speak to the ref, or let it go. According to him, he spoke to the ref but was waved away.
Sure, he played on after the handball. And he claims to have tried to overturn the decision. If we are to believe his words, does that not speak volumes about his honesty? I am sure that not many of us would have the courage to walk over to the man with the whistle and tell him, “I handled the ball,” and risk bearing the wrath of our colleagues, manager, and possibly our entire nation.
Henry now has a third decision to make. To do nothing about it, or pressure FIFA into forming a solution(read Kartik’s post below). To face three decisions of such magnitude is no easy feat for any man. And i can only imagine how mentally taxing it is.
So before we carry on berating him, calm down, have a nice cup of tea and think about it rationally. Give him a break and hope that he does the right thing for a sport he loves so dearly.