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Henry The Thief

By Simon Bailey.

What a lot of fuss. ‘Henri the thief”, as the Irish commentator for RTE called him for the last 20 minutes of the game, has unwittingly catapulted himself into the biggest footballing controversy since …erm, …uh, oh yeah, last Saturday when Shay Given tripped Evra and, shock horror, no penalty was given.

Yet again, the paucity of real football news has ensured that the proverbial molehill now has a base camp and requires a team of sherpas to navigate. It’s unfortunate that this contest for a place in the world cup finals was decided the way it was, and it definately deserves a mention, but what the press have missed is that, regardless of the incident, this was a cracking game of football. Ireland, underdogs before the first leg, were going to have to play out of their skins to get anything from this match.

Ireland had to score to cancel the away goal, and on the half hour, after sustained pressure, they did. It wasn’t a great goal, chipped back from the goal line to Keane who couldn’t fail to hit the barn door and didn’t. This woke the French up but to no avail, with the next hour filled with plenty of great football, a few good chances but no goals.

At full time Benzema was still sitting on the bench and Domenech was looking increasingly nervous. |Rumours of a bust up between Henri and Domenech were squarely laid to rest in the first period of extra time, after the former saved the latters job by contributing to the winning goal.

So, one all on the night, France go through 2-1 on aggregate. This is the right outcome. This is also now the only outcome.

It is the right outcome, because the referee says it is. Thats the rules of the game, like it or not, if we hand all the responsibility of seeing everything that happens (in 360 degrees and slo-mo) on the pitch to just 3 people, they are going to miss stuff. It may annoy the shit out of you, especially when your team is on the losing end, but it happens week in week out.

The draw for the world cup is on 4th December, two weeks time.  Is there time to fit a replay in? Why would the French agree to a replay? Would FIFA sanction one? No, No, and thrice Nay. Of course not. Never. Your’e having a laugh mate.

After losing the Russian audience, (remember tv views = bums on seats = £$£$), can FIFA afford to lose the French Audience as well? Don’t forget that most people in Ireland will watch the world cup on UK satellite channels so the Irish market has to be worth next to nothing. Of course they can’t afford it, why else would they chenge their minds about not seeding the playoffs until they knew who was in it. FIFA is a business, and maximising profits comes before all else.

At the end of the day, when the dust settles, the top nobs at FIFA will roundly congratulate themselves and each other for a job well done; only one seeded team going out and a potful of free (any publicity is good) publicity. Large brandy anyone.

I emigrated to rural Ireland a few years ago and I was duly supporting my adopted country. However as an Arsenal fan, I had a feeling that France were going to qualify. I even broke into  ‘Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry’. When the missus said that I shouldn’t support the French, I replied that I could probably go into the pub and sing it and the lads would be cool because Henry is such a class player, and the Irish were one up after all.

When the goal went in, I wasn’t at all surprised, but after the replays, I could see trouble brewing. I knew the Irish press would be all over it, and for the rest of the week at work, the radio talked about nothing else. The Irish, justifiably so, are pissed right off. Except Roy Keane. After the match the missus offered to drive me to the pub so I could sing my song.

I made the right decision in declining her kind offer, because he is enemy number one at the moment. He couldn’t be more hated right now if he was a long lost descendant of Oliver Cromwell. This hatred has been exascerbated by, what was to my mind, a genuine apology and offer of a replay. Instead it has been widely perceived as a get out of jail statement offered only when the issue of a replay had already been decided. All this despite the fact that had the hand been on the opposite team, as it were, the Irish would have been laughing all the way to the finals.

Maybe I’m a cynic, but what surprises me about this situation is how surprised people are that incidents like this happen. I thought the best moment of the match was a split second after, when Gallas put the ball in the net. He’s on form. Excellent.

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20 comments to Henry The Thief

  • avatar walter

    Good article Simon. The main talking point is : will Fifa allow video technology or not. If not then this will happen and we have to live with it. If they allow it then this can be rectified on the field and the outcome of the games could be more according to the rules.
    Must say that at first I was dissapointed that TH has don this but then again: all players handle some times and the ref doesn’t see it all the time. So I’m not gonna crucifie TH for this or the ref: “What you can’t see, you can not blow.”
    I do can feel some sympathy for the Irish. They played the best they could give and can feel themselves unlucky. But at the end of the day if the score would have been 0-1 they weren’t qualified and still had to win a penalty shoot out.
    About replaying: Fifa will never alow this. Uefa once tried to open pandora’s box and realised it at the last minute that they would be burried under complanes from all over Europe and cancelled the ban on Eduardo.
    Fifa have learnt I think and was quick to put an end to speculation for a replay.

    And to end: Fifa must be stopped by the big clubs. The big clubs should make a public statement to Fifa and Uefa that they will let their players go to play official qualifying games for EC or WC. But no more friendlies during the season. If countrys want to play friendlies then they have to play them after the season. So if a player then gets injured he could be back at the opening of the season to play for the club that pays him big money.

  • avatar LRV

    All the people insulting Henry, be it the Irish or their British cronies, are all just hypocrites. Had the shoe been on the other foot, they would all had been celebrating and not minding however it goes in. Had such a goal goes in against the English to send them out, the Irish as well as all the other British Countries would be celebrating. I still remember vividly what happened when England failed to qualify for the Euros. They all celebrated. So they can all stop their bullshit-paddy games. It changes nothing. They lost my sympathy with their completely over the top reaction.

  • avatar Geezer1287

    This reminds me of the way the scots “threw a paddy” after the Eduardo incident vs Celtic, is this just going to happene every time theres a controversial decision. As many have said (and i applaud roy keane as he understands FIFAs viewpoint) you canpick any incidnet in a game and say “what if” or “thats not fair” it wont change the outcome, if anything, it is the referees negligence, from henrys perspective, he would do anything to get his team through, Country or club, as would Robbie Keane, if anyone is the thief it is the referee for his negligence to spot foul play.

  • British (& Irish) are starting to look like really bad losers. After every crash out of a major tournament, there always has to be someone to vilify. In 2008 it was McLaren/Cashley Cole. In ’06 it was Ronaldo. In ’98 it was Beckham. In ’96 it was Southgate. In ’86 is was Maradona. In ’02 the villain was David Seaman/Beckham/referee.

    Ronaldo was blamed for Rooney’s clear red card. Simeone was blamed for Beckham’s petulance. Maradona was a serial cheat but nobody here would ever mention that Argentina were miles away the better team despite Maradona’s handball.

    Never is it mentioned when England/Scotland/Ireland cheat to eliminate teams….like Lineker’s 2 dives to eliminate Cameroun in 1990. Winning the World Cup at home in controversial circumstances. What about Owen’s dive against Argentina in 98?

  • avatar Mark

    Patronizing waffle.

    Transfer your logic to athletics, and you’d be saying ‘what is all the fuss about drugs’?

  • avatar Sensible Opinion

    Disappointed that the article completely whitewashes the shameful incident and misses the point that Henry CHEATED AND GETS AWAY WITH IT. A whitewash of an article. Ireland outplayed the French in their own back yard and Gallas and Sagna were pulled all over the place…sound familiar? I was an admirer of Thierry Henry as a footballer (he has no personality) and its a shame this infamous incident will forever shadow the special talent that he was and as a Gooner this saddens me. Also the patronising attitude towards the Irish in the article and the snide anti-Irish comments are out of order. A CHEAT’S A CHEAT EVEN WHEN ITS AN EX-GOONER. SHAME ON YOU ALL. UP THE GUNNERS (not you Gallas you’re just a cry-baby modern mercenary…AND UP THE REPUBLIC/VIVA ESPANIA!

  • avatar Ian Jenkinson

    If this happened to England there would be uproar. Far worse than this. We are entitled to defend our country in this way, we are not sore losers. If we had been beaten 4-0 on aggregate we would just get on with it, but a lot of hard work went into that game, no-one outside Ireland gave us a chance before the second leg. We fought the French in a magnificent manner and they knocked us out after a horrendous act and an even more horrendous decision to allow it. No one can blame us for being angry. I’m an Arsenal fan and if this had happened in The Champions League final against Arsenal would you just bat it away with your hand so nonchalatly as you did with your matter-of-fact opinion. “The referee gave it so that’s that”?? It’s so easy to say when you’re not affected by it isn’t it?

  • Mark,

    There’s a problem with drugs in football too. I think in terms of the spirit of the game, a player enhancing his performance with drugs is transgressing a whole lot more than, someone who intentionally handles the ball.

  • avatar St. Louis Gooner

    I can understand Ireland’s frustration. But credit to Keano for great candor. Where was the defence? Who was on the post?
    I live in a town where they still think umpiring cost us a world series in 1985, but there were three defensive miscues after the umpire’s call that could have taken care of it. We cost ourselves that title. I’m not a huge Roy Keane fan, but credit to him for straight talk.
    Also, I don’t know any player, in any sport, who would stop play ahead of the whistly blowing to point out an error on his own part. The referee didn’t whistle the play, Henry kept playing.
    Watching Thierry Henry was the main person I started watching soccer for in the first place and the person that made me an Arsenal fan. Hopefully, this all blows away.

  • avatar kanu+kanoute

    If you watch enough Henry, his cunning and ruthless character should be obvious. He will try anything to win, that’s Henry. The free kick before the chelski wall is ready is one example.

  • avatar don't believe the hype

    Good post Simon. As Roy Keane pointed out, what goes around, comes around. Ireland only got that far thanks to a penalty that never was against Georgia. I will not be surprised when France are knocked out of the World cup in controversial circumstances too. And neither should they be.

  • avatar jazbo

    The French are in the Irish are out, big deal, get over it and move on, like Keeno said what goes around comes around.

  • avatar walter

    As not being Irish or French I think I can call myself a neutral observer. The game I have seen (from the second half till the end) was almost a one way game in direction of the Irish goal. The Irish had their chances on the counter but for the rest of the game they always had some 10 players in defence. One can call this “outplaying the French” but I can tell you I hold a different view on outplaying another team.

    In fact I would have loved it if the French would have gone out. Firstly because of that coach of them, Domenech. I really think he is one of the worst coaches in history of football. Even Benitez looks great in comparison to him. So just to see him out would have made my day. Now I have to see him in the World cup destroying one of the potential best sides of the world and turn it in to a mediocre team.

    So a win from the Irish would have been good for me and certainly when I think of our French players out in South africa next summer instead of taking a rest.

    Look at it this way: the Irish would never made it to winning the WC next year. The French with their dumb trainer will go out as soon as possible. Neither team is good enough to win the WC.

    If you want to vent your frustration point it at the FIFA for bending their rules when fixing the ties and by appointing “preferable teams” putting pressure on the refs. Pressure that mounts on the refs without Fifa having to say anyting. Just the fact that they appointed those 4 teams was enough for any clever ref to know what to do. Not saying it was the case but it well could have been that a ref or an assistant that wants to go to the WC is well aware of what Fifa would like to happen and therefore it could influence their decisions al be it for 1 percent. The slightest doubt in a refs mind can be enough in a split second.

  • avatar don't believe the hype

    “The slightest doubt in a refs mind can be enough in a split second.”

    We at Arsenal know all about that, as it seems no penalties will be given to us this season as we have been labelled ‘cheats’ and ‘divers’ by the media.

  • avatar lee

    at the end of the day neither team is good enough to come anywhere near winning the WC so it wont really matter. I would be more concerned if it was for example, netherlands vs spain because both teams have a really good chance of winning the WC.

  • avatar Sensible Opinion

    The point I made that Henry is a cheat and will forever be remembered for that infamous double handball still stands. The whole football world knows that. I rest my case.

  • avatar lee

    henry was once the best player in the world and without a doubt one of the best of all time. he will always be a legend in my eyes because the game was irrelivant, both teams are pretty crap to be honest and neither of them would have won the WC. so why dont all you moaners take a leaf out of roy keanes book and GET OVER IT!

  • Henry ain’t no thief. 15 years of unbridled service to the game, and with 15 minutes to go on the clock, his doing what he did, was in no way an act of oddity. The guy is a Winner, has won them all. He needs to jury to decide the measure of his greatness. After Zizou, he is the best this generation has produced. Not to forget, Zizou, who btw got 14 reds all his life, head-butted France’s chances of winning the WC. Henry, on the other hand, quiet literally ‘handed’ the Les Blues an entry into the same! Zizou was never tarnished, WHY HENRY!?

    http://11gunners.com/opinion/hey-henry-we-still-love-you-mate/2609/

  • avatar Simon Bailey

    to sensible opinion, you say ive missed the point that henry cheated. not really, if you have read this blog before, you will know that its not a site that follows the norms. the whole reason for doing the article was to not make a big deal of the incident itself, but to speculate on the issue as a whole, in macro as opposed to micro.

    mark, as for saying that i’m equating this issue with doping in sport. at least british sport and the olymic people realise there is a problem, because they use the most modern technology available to combat it. there isnt that much fuss made about their drug policy because it seems to work, with athletes being banned regularly. fifa, uefa, & the fa, however, are unable to deal with incidents like this because their policy on refereeing games is flawed in my opinion, probably because they are Luddites

    i dont agree with cheating, but we cant expect the players to police themselves. some kind of technical aid has to be provided to refs so that these incidents become non incidents.

    Ian, if it had been england, there would have been probably more uproar, but the point i am trying to make is that it still wouldn’t have changed anything. maradonas hand of god is the ideal example. did the english get justice? no. you say that noone outside of ireland gave us a chance, i recall listening to the radio on the day of the match, and not many people at home did either. rte didnt even want to pay the going rate for the tv rights. as for arsenal, i remember kuyt fouling us, and no penalty given, in a cl match against liverpool a couple of years ago when we should have gone through to the next round. as much as we were all disgusted by the referees decision, or lack of, nothing changed. the point i am trying to make here is that until the rules change, the refs decision is final. when the whistle goes at the end of the match, the scoreline on the big telly is what is going in the book. full stop. and its so easy to say regardless of wether i’m supporting the team or not, because that is the way it is. crying and complaining wont change anything, only fifa can do that, and as i said before, they are a business where profits come before all else.

    i dont think ireland fans should get over it, its an important part of footballing history. fifa are having a meeting on 2nd december to discuss among other things, their reaction to the problems refs have in high stake games.

    maybe this is the silver lining in what has been a cloudy week for ireland. perhaps they are beginning to realise that something needs to be done.

    walter, i like the idea that by seeding the matches, the refs were subtly influenced the higher seeds. i suppose the lure of the woirld cup is as strong for a ref as a player.

  • avatar walter

    Simon, as for the teams it is as important for the refs to go to the WC. To get to the WC is a jackpot for the refs.
    Still a tenth of what the players get but they get well paid for the period they spend in SA.
    I bet refs would do anything to get there. And as refs know which countrys the fifa would like to see in SA by the seeding system…
    A was listener knows what I mean. You have to be a strong ref to net let it have any influence… and maybe dumb because it could make you stay at home during the WC.