The appetite for commentary on the farce in Paris still seems strong, and I thought Arsene Wenger had a very wise take on the entire situation today. Wenger is, obviously, a French supporter and very close with Henry. In fairness to the Irish fans, the world football community, and for the sake of Henry, he called for the game to be replayed.
For Wenger, labeling Henry a cheat is too far. Cheating implies a degree of conscientious decision-making, and in a play that takes a fraction of a second and in the height of an emotional encounter, “cheat” is too harsh a word. As Wenger said, “For me people who bought referees, who took drugs, they are the real cheats in sport.” That is a healthy bit of perspective.
Moreover, the people who really let the football world down are the people who refuse to allow modern technology to correct errors. Wenger said that he is sure that that as the referee moved back to the circle for the kick-off, he knew there was something very wrong with that goal. But what could he do about it? He did not see the handball, and he can’t change a call because Shay Given was outraged, whether Given was right or not. FIFA left the referee alone to take the blame, and was not there to help him when he needed it the most.
Finally, this is what Wenger said about the impossible position Henry is now in: “A player of his stature has a massive pressure on his shoulders and if somebody has to do something for Thierry, it is French football and France as a country, not to leave him out there alone against the whole world. France has to say ‘yes it was a handball and we offer a replay’.”
You cannot be more fair than that.