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The Hand Of Henry: An Irish Perspective


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.

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  1. F1Mikal

    November 21, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    • Rory

      November 21, 2009 at 8:08 pm

      Roy Keane is a man with a serious chip on his shoulder who somehow managed to bring this game back to him and his rows with the FAI over the years.

  2. Martin Burns

    November 21, 2009 at 12:18 am

    Thanks Rory, that is the best article I’ve read on this debacle. Most real Irish sports fans are not that angry with Henry. However, we are disappointed with his handling of the situation. Our real anger is directed at FIFA. They changed the rules of the seedings for the Play-offs weeks before the end of the qualifiers to help the big teams qualify. It looked like France, Portugal and Germany were going to be there. It would have been a TV revenue disaster for FIFA if France played Germany in the Play-off. So they fixed that with the seedings.
    Added to that, they continue to live in the 80’s when it comes to using technology in football. Their reasoning is it would slow down the game. However, in the time it took to calm down the Irish players after the goal, a video ref could have made his decision.
    Looking for a replay was clutching at straws, but the FAI had to be seen to be doing something because they didn’t kick up a fuss over the play-off seeding farce.

  3. jleau

    November 20, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Well written! Very nice to see an Irish perspective that’s not so over the top.

    It’s regrettable that public outrage is not more focused on FIFA’s antiquated means of officiating. Replay is not perfect but it would have fixed this obvious error. Hopefully progress will be made.

  4. Jorge Curioso

    November 20, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I like “Hand of Frog” better.

    • Rory

      November 20, 2009 at 12:49 pm

      The headlines wrote themselves, as long as ‘le’ was placed in front of a word you could put any anti French sentiment beside it!

      • Jorge Curioso

        November 20, 2009 at 1:57 pm

        Shooting fish in a barrel.

  5. bookmakers

    November 20, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    this has to be replayed, really…

  6. brn442

    November 20, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Spot on Rory. Finally an article that’s written on the subject that actually makes sense and puts things in perspective sans the emotional, hysterical handbagging by less rational heads.

    It’s a shame on what happened and I agree with you, if this incident gets us a few inches closer to getting technology in the sport then it wouldn’t be all in vain.

  7. nikesb

    November 20, 2009 at 11:41 am

  8. Rory

    November 20, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Yeah I was at the game and remember saying to my brother what the f**k was that for! It has been brought up to be fair by some of the less hysterical press and our reaction to it then. The more balanced views do tend to get lost though at a time like this.
    The reaction at the time was a shrug and a wry smile I think and we were glad we got dug out of a hole by a generous decision!
    I just wish we were beaten by a decent goal, or a moment of magic. The way France got through just takes away from the fact our team put on a great display against the odds and as an Irish fan that is what I would prefer to remember.

    • LS

      November 20, 2009 at 11:26 am

      Thanks for your perspective on this.

  9. LS

    November 20, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I mentioned this on another thread but as you’re an Irish supporter, I’d like to get your take.

    Roy Keane has pointed out that Ireland benefited from a dubious penalty call against Georgia during qualifying. Like most people I had forgotten this incident.

    You watch this clip and tell me where the penalty is:

    What does Robbie Keane have to say about this? Did he go over to the ref and tell him it was not a penalty? The British press referred to it as “generous”, “fortunate” and “the luck of the Irish”

    Trapattoni himself said “I am in football for 40 years and do you know how many penalties like this there are in every country? We had the luck in this situation but every Sunday in every country there are many situations like this. I think over the 90 minutes we deserved to win.”

    What was the reaction in Ireland at the time? Is this being talked about now in light of the Henry incident and Keane’s comments?

    • villafandan

      November 20, 2009 at 11:32 am

      that is an astounding penalty call, make no mistake… but apart from the questionable morality of accepting the gift from the referee, what did any of the irish players do to con the ref into giving it? nothing that i saw. i don’t see the equivalency of a player cheating and benefiting.

      you could check every dodgy call made in every game leading up to the play off – and you’d need to do it for both teams – if you want to satisfy roy keane’s ridiculous notion that they had their chances to take the game before this, as if that nullifies anything. but you’d be in serious danger of entering into an infinite regress. where would you draw the line and when did two wrongs start making a right anyway?

      the point is, it’s 2009, it ought to be perfectly possible to introduce some sort of video technology into games in real time to allow the correct decisions to be made so that when the final whistle is blown we can feel as secure as possible that we have the right result.

      the devil is in the detail, but we surely have to agree now that we’re at the point where the principle of introducing video technology is a no-brainer. if it’s done right, i don’t believe it will interfere with the flow of play any more than the current situation we endure of players swarming around the ref to protest a decision he’s 99.99% certain not to change his mind on.

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