The France v Ireland playoff was a big game, and there is little doubt that the Theirry Henry handball incident was a foul. But does it really need to be added to the list of deadly sporting sins ?
You'd think so after the huge amount of righteous whining going on in the British and Irish media, and on the blogs and the forums ... by anyone and everyone with an axe to grind about Henry, France, Arsenal (who used to be Henry's club), and/or FIFA's unwillingness to have TV replay ...
(OK that last point about TV replays might actually be justified - but let's not derail the blog post this time)
I'm bored with all the ranting ... the xenophobic diatribe dished out by the tabloids who are simply trying to sell newspapers and the politicans who are trying distract from bigger problems ... so I'm going to try to short circuit this issue by demonstating that this Irish side were guilty of a similar thing in earlier qualifying.
From a match report of Ireland v Georgia : World Cup 2010 Qualifier - which Ireland won 2-1 after a very similar dodgy incident.
A long ball found its way to Robbie Keane who seemed to control the ball with his hand only for the referee to let play continue. The ball was then cleared but only as far as Kevin Doyle as it deflected off the Waterford man and into the path of Ucha Lobjanidze. The referee then gave a shrill blast of his whistle for what appeared to be an offside by Keane.
Instead to everyones surprise, Hyytia pointed to the penalty spot and deemed Lobjanidze to have handled the ball. Replays showed that Keane had handled the ball in the lead-up to this decision and that Keane was also offside as play continued.
Here is the video on YouTube where you can see the incident :
Did you find yourself shouting HANDBALL ! at all?
Pretty clear in the video isn't it? Does Mr Keane own up? Does he tell the referee? Does he bollocks!! He quickly accepts the penalty and stands and watches the demonstrations and then scores for Ireland from the spot ... becasue it's a vital incident and an important chance!
... ... sound of the penny dropping ... ...
... ... uncomfortable shuffling of feet ...
... ... oh dear oh dear oh dear ... ...
So WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE between this incident where Ireland benefit and the one with Henry? Nothing! And it's a vital stage in the game with Georgia hanging onto a 1-0 lead. It was a deliberate handball in the buildup to a goal and the player obviously knew it. The ref didn't see it. So nothing is given.
And don't give me the accidental handball claim some have tried. Robbie Keane is a top professional player who knew exactly what he was doing in trying to bring that ball down. This isn't pub football - it's an international match. It WAS Hand-bloody-ball ALRIGHT !
Was it a case of the big Irish bullies conspiring to beat little Georgia - using home advantage to influence a referee? No - It's just football. A handball call that is missed by a referee. This sort of sh!t happens all the time.
But ... I did not HEAR a big fuss after this game. No hoo-haa and demands for replays. In fact this event passed by without comment from mainstream UK and Irish press.
So although the situation at the Stade de France for the France v Ireland playoff it was dramatic and painful for Irish fans (this time) - it was hardly unique ...
So it's not about FIFA conspiracies. It's not about the cheating French. It's not about the fact the Theirry Henry used to play for Arsenal, or "Johnny Foreigner" always cheating (not like our lads) - or anything else ...
... it was just a refereeing error !
So would partisan Irish fans PLEAAAASSSSEEEE just get over it, and move on. And would a few tabloids please publish this story too?!