By Ryan Fleming
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see it live, but thankfully I wasn’t at a pub, like The Banshee, which columnist Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe describes in his article. I did, though, watch the second leg of the Ireland, France World Cup Qualifier match in it’s entirety on the internet earlier this week.
So, yes, I’ve seen the handball that French great Thierry Henry so undoubtedly committed, which in turn lead to William Gallas’ header, putting the France side even on the scoreboard, but ahead 2-1 on aggregate. Watching it over and over again, not cause I’m a fan of France, but an Irish supporter, one has to wonder if Henry is really to blame.
Can we really point fingers to a player who has been a class act his entire career? Thierry donated money to AIDS research and is a promoter of the Stand Up Speak Up, anti-racism campaign. The two-time FIFA Player of the Year’s simple act of reflex, albeit being an all-important one, was an action that millions of us would have done, like Henry, without even thinking about it.
With the ball moving from his right-to-left, almost seemingly headed out-of-bounds, Henry, probably unconsciously stuck out his left hand to stop the ball and drop it at his feet. The rest is history, but the Irish, until earlier today, were hoping to erase that. The Football Association of Ireland wrote a formal petition to FIFA expressing their desire to have the game replayed. It’s a rarity, but it has happened before.
The thin line of optimism that the FAI had was dissipated today when FIFA made a statement declaring that “the result of the match cannot be changed and the match cannot be replayed. As is clearly mentioned in the Laws of the Game, during matches, decisions are taken by the referee and these decisions are final.”
After the match Henry apologized, but then turned the blame on someone who probably deserved most, if not all of it, the referee.
Swedish referee, Martin Hansson, missed the call and gave the boys in green their undeserved ticket back home. Swedish newspapers also mentioned the miss call and expressed their sympathy for Ireland and how the match ended.
One has to question the neglect of replays in matches. FIFA continues to neglect the topic even in crucial international competitions like the World Cup or even Champions League bouts. The question then arises how many times do incidents like this have to happen– dreams crushed and tensions created–until that terribly tedious, strenuous task of looking at a video replay to make things right finally get its place in soccer.
Editor’s Note: Since this column has been written Thierry Henry has come out and stated that he would like there to be a replay of the match. And Roy Keane has stated that Ireland supporters must get over the result and the penalty because the chance should have never occurred if the Irish had played proper defense in the penalty area.
Ryan Fleming is a contributing writer for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also writes about the NHL on his other blog at www.rinksideview.wordpress.com.