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Friday, 20 November 2009

Replay? Now even Thierry agrees: It's only fair

IT took him nearly 44 hours, but at 3.49pm today, Thierry Henry finally admitted on Twitter: “It would be fair to replay the game, but its not my decision...”
And, yes, it may be a coincidence with another 20,456 following him, but that came less than an hour after I sent him the sycophantic: “@Thierry_Henry do you think there should be a replay? Everyone would have done what you did, but not many would apologise like that.”
You can check it, it's all there on nealcol on!
Ah, the wonders of modern technology. Probably just a coincidence. But whatever, it's the right thing to do for the once-heroic Henry whose reputation was tarnishing fast.
To recap: In the play-off second leg in Paris on Wednesday Henry’s blatant handball, missed by the Swedish officials, made the goal for William Gallas which put the Republic of Ireland out of next year’s World Cup in South Africa.
Today, the Mirror estimates the French will gain nearly £1billion from that single decision – and the people want the game replayed.
But with over 200,000 on Facebook petitioning for the cause – and planning a “peaceful, family march” from Lansdowne Road to the French embassy in Dublin tomorrow at 2pm – FIFA’s deeply unpopular Sepp Blatter has resolutely refused to bow to the pressure
That is, until Henry came out this afternoon with his twitter. Fair play to the bloke, I say. He admitted to Ireland’s Richard Dunne what he'd done straight after the game.
Then he told the press: “Yes, it was handball, but I am not the referee.” He laughed when somebody suggested he should have told the referee straight away... and in retrospect, he's right, Diego Maradona certainly didn't in that 1986 quarter-final (which should be replayed, though Diego's a bit fat now and God's hand is a little older)
And so to today, and the former Arsenal star, the former darling of North Bank, Highbury, accepted: "Naturally I feel embarrassed at the way that we won and feel extremely sorry for the Irish who definitely deserve to be in South Africa.
"There is nothing I can do apart from admit that the ball had contact with my hand leading up to our equalising goal and I feel very sorry for the Irish."
This bit's interesting. He explains: "I have said at the time and I will say again that yes I handled the ball. I am not a cheat and never have been. It was an instinctive reaction to a ball that was coming extremely fast in a crowded penalty area.
"As a footballer you do not have the luxury of the television to slow the pace of the ball down 100 times to be able to make a conscious decision. People are viewing a slow motion version of what happened and not what I or any other footballer faces in the game.
"If people look at it in full speed you will see that it was an instinctive reaction.
"It is impossible to be anything other than that. I have never denied that the ball was controlled with my hand. I told the Irish players, the referee and the media this after the game."
Interestingly, Henry's old boss Arsene Wenger agrees. He said: "Football accepts that a billion people see it, one guy doesn't see it, and yet it is the one who prevails. It cannot work.
"At the game, I saw the referee giving a goal knowing that something was wrong and that is really sad. In the end, he gave a goal already knowing that it wasn't a goal. We cannot accept that in our sport and you have to do something about it. The referee didn't see it, I can understand that, the linesman didn't see it, but they couldn't get any help.
"For the sense of justice it is quite embarrassing to see. I think even France is embarrassed. We didn't play well at all and we won the game and won the qualification with a goal that was not a goal."
This morning, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson weighed in with: "The stance is that Fifa prefers human decision-making rather than technology decision-making and until they change their mind there is nothing you can do about it - you have to convince them, nobody else.
"It is not a matter of asking every player and manager in the world their opinion because they will all share the same one, as I do myself, that technology can play a part and can help referees in a situation like the other night."
So, if we accept Henry didn't cheat, just did what every desperate footballer would, then the onus turns to FIFA. They won't use technology to help referees, though it is available. It was the referee who was at fault rather than Henry, who was just doing his job.
FIFA have allowed replays when referees have made mistakes before. And they have to do so again. The people demand it. And nearly every French post on Facebook admits it's the only way to save face. Blatter has no choice. Play it again.

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