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Arsene Wenger’s Wise Words on the Fiasco in Paris


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.

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  1. Gaz

    November 23, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Everyone keeps saying it was a split second decision and that he had no idea of what he did. “It’s all instinct” seems to be the common excuse for him.

    I just don’t buy it.

    I don’t know how many of you have actually played football in a competitive league before but when I saw the goal two things come to mind. One, the first touch could have been instinctive (but anyone that has played football as long as him should have that instinct restrained by now). Two, the second touch definitely was not instinctive – it was to keep the ball in play no matter what.

    No replay – that’s ridiculous. We all have to live with bad refereeing decisions.

    The only thing that could possibly happen is a few game ban. I’m in favor – but it won’t happen.

    Guess this will just have to go down as another reason to dislike the French? 🙂

  2. AtlantaPompey

    November 22, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    To lay all of the blame on Henry is very shortsighted. Yes, he handled the ball, but it was a split second action, even though he touched it twice, the second time clearly redirecting it to his feet. I will not hold this against Henry. I will hold it against FIFA for not even considering using technology that would rectify the situation during the match, essentially immediately, and prevent the whole situation from blowing up like it has. Every other team sport in the world uses some form of replay. Some of them work very well, some do not. Figure out what could work for football and implement it. It’s embarrassing to the sport as a whole that this is allowed to continue.

    Wenger is also correct in that the best remedy would be for the French to offer a replay, therefore putting world pressure on FIFA to allow it. The French should offer it anyway because it’s the proper sporting thing to do.

    Having written all of that, don’t think Henry should get off without any blame, in my opinion. He knew he touched it twice, yet he still celebrated the goal. He knew the goal shouldn’t count, yet said nothing to the ref in the moments afterward. Saying what he has said afterwards makes him look better, but does not absolve him of his actions. If he had held his hand up immediately and motioned to the ref that he had handled the ball and the goal should not have counted, then he should be pointed to as an example of great sportsmanship. Being contrite when you know the decision will not be reversed is not the same as immediately attempting to reverse a poor decision that you know could hurt your team.

  3. Michael

    November 20, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    If before the game you went to Thierry Henry and told him that France would qualify for the World Cup, but that he would use his hands in setting up the decisive goal and that his reputation would forever be tarnished … I don’t think he’d have done it. But during the game things happen and I’m sure right as he did it he expected the referee to whistle, but he didn’t. I’m sure he now wishes he’d gone to the referee and fessed up, but the pressure to win was so great that the celebrations began. I was watching Ireland’s controversial goal against Georgia and Robbie Keane didn’t confess either. When you benefit from an official’s mistake you tend to just shut up because you have often been the victim before of bad decisions.

  4. kilburn john

    November 20, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    FIFA could not instruct the teams to play it again. It would leave them open to instruct replays for every bad decision forever. But France could still offer to replay (as Wenger did against Sheffield) and if Ireland then FIFA will have a much less risky decision to make. Each manager should have the right to make a limited number of calls throughout a match, say 3 and after that they have no more calls. The referee and his assistant can make as many calls as required.

    But the lesson is now very clear, the video technology must be employed ASAP and before the World Cup in order that we do not have such a fiasco in that tournament too.

  5. Jorge Curioso

    November 20, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Except that it was conscious, as was his refusal to say anything to the official immediately afterwards, as was his lying about intent, as was his general arrogance about the whole thing.

    Only being captured red-handed on video for the whole world to see has made Henry adopt the least appearance of contrition.

    Ban him.

    • Scott

      November 20, 2009 at 3:37 pm

      How do you know it was conscious? I’m assuming you’ve played some kind of sports in your life…do you not realize that things happen in a blink of an eye?. Do you belive Henry had time to think “hey, here comes the ball, I bet I can knock it down with my hand and pass it accross for a goal!”. And you know he was lying? Doubful. That may be what you believe or want to believe but you certainly don’t know it.

      I love that commenters on a blog have the ability to know what someone else is thinking.

      The Irish got ripped off, no doubt about it but life isn’t fair, deal with it. It’s only a game,

  6. Butros_B

    November 20, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    It shouldn’t be down to FIFA to order a replay. Doing so would encourage every team wronged by a refereeing decision that there matches be re-played (Crystal Palace this season the prime example with the clear goal that wasn’t given).

    It should in fact be down to the French FA to offer the rematch. Doing so would restore in them a lot of respect, as Arsenal proved in that FA Cup match John mentioned.

  7. Tom

    November 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I think his comments regarding technology and cheating are spot on.

    I don’t think a replay is practical though, and it would set a bad precedent. What would we do about the next game where there is a marginally bad call that decides it?

  8. John

    November 20, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Few years ago in the FA Cup, I think it was against Sheffield United where Arsenal won 2-1 controversially and Wenger offered a replay, they still ended up wining 2-1 again.

  9. rafi

    November 20, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    steve, that observation is alright but then dont you think the problem here is FIFA. Why did it hasten a decision when so much is at stake? surely wenger did not order them to act super quick!

  10. Steve

    November 20, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Fair enough, but he made that statement AFTER Fifa had already said the game wouldn’t be replayed. And fifa are hardly likely to admit they were wrong, are they? Of course, there is widespread embarrassment among the French, but this – and the similar statement by Henry saying a replay would be fair – came AFTER they knew a replay will not happen. It is about reputation management.

    • Darren

      November 20, 2009 at 1:06 pm

      Actually no, not about reputation mangement. Wenger has a press conference every Friday about his team and a look ahead to the upcoming weekend game. Scheduled every week this way. And naturally he was asked, you know, being french and close to Henry personally. Wenger’s view on this are exactly on que with his views on having technology in the game. And not the first time Wenger has offered a replay after a game either.

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