I thought I should jump in on this issue while the water is still warm and explain an Irish view of Wednesday’s larceny. In Ireland we do not do football dramas in small measures, Roy Keane’s walkout at the 2002 World Cup practically sparked a civil war and now the ‘Hand of Henry’ has turned into a diplomatic incident.
Politicians, comedians, sportspeople and raconteurs have all joined the debate on the goal that sent France to the World Cup and there is alot of anger in Ireland about it. All people are talking about in the papers, on the TV and on the radio is this game and ‘that’ goal.
Thierry Henry is now the ultimate pantomime villain, a Facebook group where we Paddys can get together and mutually loath him attracted 60,000 members within 18 hours! The flag at the top of the page is just one of the photos on the page and, if anything, the site shows the creative possibilities of Photoshop.
Various citizens of our fair republic have sworn never to use Loreal, drive a Citroen or French kiss anymore. Internet campaigns have been launched and many people I know have sent strongly worded letters to the powers that be in FIFA, yes folks, noone does righteous outage quite like the Irish.
As an Arsenal fan I am stuck in the middle of this hate fest and I do not think Henry deserves all the bile that has been thrown his way. If my sporting integrity was tested and Ireland won through a goal like that would I be morally outraged? I am sure I would find some time to reflect as I looked for cheap flights to South Africa.
I do think though the timing of his comments today where he said Ireland deserve a replay seem very convenient. It is easy to come out with that kind of thing after both the French Federation and FIFA said a replay is not going to happen.
To have your guts ripped out by an idol, for the second time I might add, is a tough one to handle but some of the abuse coming his way is over the top. People are saying his reputation and legacy is forever ‘tarnished’, he certainly will not be popular in Ireland but one incident should not cloud Henry’s entire career. Are Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira or Eric Cantona less revered because of some of the nasty things they did in their career? Not really and Henry should not be judged on this incident alone.
Amid the madness of this quite alot of what is important has been lost in the ether. Firstly, I would like to point out how fantastically well Ireland played. We dominated the French in their home stadium and the reality is Ireland should have wrapped the game up in normal time with both Robbie Keane and Damian Duff spurning quality chances. That was one of the best Irish displays I have seen and I was hugely proud of the guts and desire we showed. Keith Andrews showed that mug Lassana Diarra that pride and passion can still get a player a long way and Ireland certainly looked like they wanted the game more than France.
This was a huge moment for this team and for the likes of Keane, Duff, Dunne and possibly Given Wednesday was the end of a dream. They will probably never get another chance to get to a World Cup and to lose to a goal like that was really sickening. Duff and Dunne handled themselves with good grace in this whole affair, Dunne claimed he did not blame Henry for what happened and Duff said he probably would have done the same. At least he’s honest and as Irish fans get completely bent out of shape about Henry’s moment of infamy we should recall that Damian Duff is one of the finest exponents of ‘winning’ free kicks.
I don’t think there was ever any chance of a replay going ahead, let’s be honest about it FIFA got the result they wanted, the big boys are through. If this incident forces a rethink on the use of technology in football though I will rest a little easier. This is something that pisses me of beyond belief, I wrote here a few months ago after Howard Webb made an error in the Confederations Cup that technology should be considered and it is something I feel strongly about. Wednesday’s game has once again brought the issue forward and it seems to pop up all the time with not much done about it in the mean time.
Will FIFA ever pull their heads out of the sand? Wednesday’s game had millions and millions riding on it, not just for the immediate boost to the winning football association but the buzz of the World Cup would create massive revenue. I remember the 2002 World Cup and when the Irish football team are successful it creates such a feelgood factor around the country. To have to stomach a decision like that because FIFA think football should remain a ‘human’ game is really alot to take.
We Irish are hopping mad now but they say time heals all scars. I don’t blame Henry, I don’t particularly blame the referee (although the linesman has a bit to answer for) but I do blame the muppets that govern football for letting a situation like this happen by their pig headed refusal to countenance the use of technology. Even their far from ideal extra officials would have saved Ireland on Wednesday but they always seem to be behind the times.
For a brief moment our small country on the fringe of Europe is at the centre of the football world. Come the World Cup in South Africa this tie will have been forgotten and we will have to watch the lucky 32 countries battle it out. It would have been glorious but such is life.