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Well, at least “The Sun” didn’t go with “The Hand Of Frog” as their headline. This, however, was about the best thing that could be said for the media hysteria over Thierry Henry’s handball for France against Ireland last night. First of all, though, we may as well take a quick look at the incident itself. If we are to run with the viewpoint that there was some sort of conspiracy against the Irish going on in Paris last night, then we have to assume that Thierry Henry, the referee and the linesman were all in on it. The truth of the matter is that this wasn’t the case, so we have to look at how they contrived to get it so wrong.
Firstly, the match officials. At the time that the ball strikes Henry’s arm, there were four players directly in the referee’s line of sight. He should probably have been in a better position, but the fact that he didn’t see the offence (summed up by a gesticulation to protesting Irish players that he felt that the ball had struck the cirner of his shoulder and chest) means that, as far as he was concerned, there was no decision to make. The linesman for that half of the pitch was in a similar predicament, with play on the opposite side of the pitch to where he was located and players blocking his view. If the referee and the linesman both have their view obscured at the same time, they can hardly be expected to give a free-kick just because half a dozen Irish arms went up. If they had wanted to fix the match, they could have given the half-shout for a penalty that France had already had before the goal.
Next, onto Henry. Sometimes it feels as if people just don’t understand professional footballers. These are men that are bred like racehorses with one aim: to win. The first strike against Henry’s arm may have had a degree of accident about it, but the second certainly didn’t. The mindset of Thierry Henry at that precise moment is impossible to know, but it wouldn’t be out of the question that he guessed that, with the ball having struck his arm the once, he might as well try it on again. He might not have thought anything at all at that moment. Whatever may or may not have happened in that quarter of a second, his actions were not a million miles removed from what we see up and down the country on a weekly basis.
Nobody, however, could have expected the hysteria in the media that has followed it, with many members of the press seeming to collectively lose their minds this morning. In The Times, Tony Cascarino said, “Don’t think I’m ducking the question when I say that it would never have been an issue for me — because I wasn’t a cheat”. Richard Williams in The Guardian sounded like Brian Sewell chiding a modern artist in stating that “Henry may come from Les Ulis, a quartier difficile outside Paris, but he is a sophisticated man, and a much decorated one. A chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur should have done better – by his opponents, by himself, and by the game”.
The pick of the lot, however, was Henry Winter, who sounded like a jilted lover on Twitter, wailing, “Why Thierry? Why ruin your reputation for sportsmanship? Journalists are now running thru Stade de Fraud looking for you. Why did you cheat?”, managing in the process to sound like cross between an angry teacher and a spurned lover. Inadvertently, though, Winter and Williams may just have stumbled across a large part of the reason for the media’s spit-inflected rage over this incident. Henry was the aesthete’s footballer. Good looking, smarter than the average player and capable of moments of absolute genius on the pitch, he is the sort of player that we would, if we admit it to ourselves, all like to be.
Journalists in particular have gushed over him for years. The speed, grace and economy of his play. The articulacy. The hot girlfriend that wanders around his house in the Renault advert wearing an oversized shirt and possibly nothing else. Thierry Henry was the journalist’s representative on the pitch. They wouldn’t have believed him capable of such behaviour. In other words, in the process of their lionisation of him, they forgot that he is just a professional footballer. Just as corruptible as anybody else. Several writers drew a dividing line between Henry and Diego Maradona. Somehow or other, Richard Williams managed to equate that in comparison with Henry’s handball, Maradona’s was, “a street kid’s instinct, acclaimed by his compatriots as revenge for Antonio Rattín and the Malvinas”. Well, no, Richard. Maradona’s handball was cheating, just as Henry’s was.
Today, the clamour for a replay of the match has been growing and growing from both sides of the Irish Sea. Rematches are almost completely unheard of, but the FAI has already cited the replaying of the 2005 match between Bahrain and Uzbekistan as being precedent for this match to be replayed. However, what this request fails to take into account is that the referee in that particular match got a decision materially wrong (he awarded a free-kick rather than a retake after a player encroached at a penalty kick) rather than because match officials missed a call. The referee’s decision is final as far as FIFA are concerned, and that is that. Familiar talk has also resurfaced about the merits of video refereeing, but this also remains unlikely because the authorities continue to see referees as the ultimate authority in the game. Finally, talk of the FAI taking FIFA to court is a complete non-starter. It is against FIFA membership rules to take them to court – doing so would more likely than not see Ireland expelled from the organistation altogether.
So, there we go. Thierry Henry handled the ball and that decision may or may not have knocked Ireland out of the World Cup. He could have come clean but, hey, he’s a footballer. What he did is what they do if it gives them a chance of a result and it’s what they’ve been doing for years – for decades even beyond Diego Maradona. He could have apologised. He could even have refused to celebrate the goal, but the fact that he did neither is hardly a surprise, except to those in the media that had placed him upon a pedestal some years ago.
It’s also worth remembering that Ireland weren’t winning at the time that this happened and that they were still playing – albeit a relatively limp and feeble version of the brand – France in Paris. Not to mention that Robbie Keane’s two one-on-one misses and the poor performance that they put on at Croke Park in the First Leg left them playing extra time at the Stade de France in the first place. Ultimately, though, Ireland supporters know the limitations of their team and this may have heightened the sense of injustice that they felt last night. They could probably do without the British media telling them what they should think of Thierry Henry and how “cheated” they should feel, though.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
Great post. The only reasoned thing I’ve seen written about Henry all day.
I admit I’m an Gooner, but I’m also the kind of football fan who hates seeing out-of-proportion responses to incidents written or spoken aloud by people who don’t even support the aggrieved team.
Rational thinking is difficult when your team just lost, but if you’re claiming to be impartial, it’s essential.
The Sun did use the Hand of Frog headline though – the so-called Irish Sun anyway.
And, though I totally agree Ireland’s misses are what really cost us the game, I don’t fully agree that that has anything to do with Henry’s behaviour. And I wouldn’t neccessarily blame Henry. But so what if we were playing extra time in Paris etc.
But again, one of the best pieces of read on this mess…
“Ireland supporters know the limitations of their team and this may have heightened the sense of injustice that they felt last night”
I would LOVE to see the reaction if this happened to the English- stiff upper lip and and all that (MY ARSE) – they would be demanding Henri’s Hand on a platter.
The resulting media hysteria was predictable given the magnitude of the match, the timing of the play, the david-versus-goliath angle and even the FIFA seeding decision.
That being said, Henry did what he was taught to do…whatever it takes to win.
Social comments and analytics for this post…
This post was mentioned on Twitter by twoht: Okay. Here’s what I think of that Thierry Henry business, then: http://bit.ly/2sLYRy…
Ha ha ha, this is what you could call a biased response to your biased claim on the journalism.
Firstly, please do not try and blame the referee for getting it wrong, he was conned by the cheat that now will be remembered as Thierry Henry. For all his positive accomplishments on the pitch they have been ruined by this one incident.
Also don’t blame the Irish (Keane) for failing to score chances, that is football, what they didn’t do is revert to cheating to win the game, so morally they get the high ground. Also see my end comment.
Regardless of whether or not they get a replay and I don’t believe they will, to hear ex-French internationsl, team mates of Henry claim they are embarrassed is refreshing and pleasing. If only this legend could be humble enough to admit that he did it out of pure selflishness rather than the desire to win, it would be addmirable.
Because after all, if they had created chances to win the game like Ireland tried then they would have no cause defend the outcome.
[…] Read more: Trying To Dissect The Thierry Henry Handball […]
This is most reasonable review of events that I have read. Thank you.
If the governing bodies even considering a re-match, then it would mean that the match between Crystal Palace and Bristol City would also need to be replayed after the referee missed a PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE goal.
I wish people would get some sense of proportion…..thousands of people lost their club back in 2002 due to an injustice, not just the half chance of qualifying for one tournament.
Don’t recall seeing the same outbursts across the nation then.
Where would we be without incidents like this one … 22 men, 2 goals, 1 Ref and a ball. IMHO football needs more of these occurences to maintain international interest. Referees are always going to make errors and occassionally their mistakes will dash the hopes of a nation. Without the driving passion that requires that a wrong be made right, Ireland would have never stood a chance … now I wouldn’t put it past them to beat all of the odds in their next world cup.
great post. thank you
Ah, sadly you underestimate the crassness of The Sun. FRONT page headline of Friday’s rag is “The £1 Billion Hand Of Frog”. So that’s two days after the event, front page news, for a country that isn’t actually relevant to The Sun’s distribution. For the sort of handball that will probably happen a hundred times across the national divisions over the weekend. There may be a new EU president, hundreds of people forced out of their homes through flooding, or the head of the House of Commons standards body having to resign, but that has to all take second billing to a two day old handball story.
A re-match is a ridiculous suggestion: would they keep replaying the game until there is a match in which all of the referee’s decisions are 100% correct? I can sympathise with the Irish who played very well and have come away from a qualifying campaign in which they’ve matched both Italy and France but have failed to make it to the World Cup.
Who knows whether Henry knew what he was doing or not? I suspect the initial handball was accidental, but the slap to stop it going out of play was obviously deliberate on some level. Talks of a conspiracy are nonsense.
The biggest injustice here is that Ireland were playing France at all. To seed the play-offs is a ludicrous idea: all sides finished second in their group and so all sides should have been treated as equals. Or did FIFA not want to have to chose between France and Portugal (and hence marketable players such as Henry or Ronaldo) going to the World Cup?
Shaking my head in disbelief here.For a start Henry is offside , the ball brushes the french players hand on the way to TH and he is in an offside position, the he cheats by handling it twice, what does anything else that went on in the game have to do with this ? None at all , the French were struggling and cheated , the worst bit of cheating I have ever seen in football , should we throw the rule book out as the prize is so big ? Football is corupt and the players are tottally out of touch with the fans ( as are uefa and fifa).The press reaction is the only GOOD thing to come out of this , they are hounding the cheat and rightly so , the press have caught the mood of everyone in the uk (appart from some arsenal fans ,what do you expect from them after Eduardos cheating ban was recinded they probably think cheating is now officially accepted ),my love of football is dwindling, every season from the boring champions (what a joke)league to the change of the draw (seeded) and now rewarding a blatant cheat with a place at the World Cup finals, well , I will never watch a game involving Henry again and will not be viewing the WC or CL on tv anymore , enough is enough , its boring , too much money involved and dirty cheats.
[…] over the past few days, perhaps understandably so, but one of the most reasoned dissections is over here at […]
The problem is not with the incident, it’s with the way that TH has always tried to present himself as a true gentleman of the game, witness his outburst after the CL final that Arsenal lost to Barcelona (and subsequent dive in the WC semi final the same year) Amazing it’s take so long for Henry Winter to see through that.
Good post though.
Roy Keane’s opinions: (video) http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/8370497.stm
I love you, Roy Keane.
“He could have come clean but, hey, he’s a footballer” – Why should that make it OK. I find it incredibly depressing that we feel it’s appropriate to defend someone on that basis. I’d like to see footballers starting to be more accountable for their own actions and managers accepting their part in ensuring fair play. AS every season passes and money and TV rights take a bigger and bigger role in what happens in the global game I feel less and less like I want to be involved anymore. If football has become a sport where it’s OK to cheat and down to the officials to spot it I don’t think I want to follow it any more.
An alternative, but I think equally balanced opinion of the incident here > http://cravencottagenewsround.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/cheat/
I blame Given for not saving the goal TBH.
FIFA should give Ireland a re-match.
[…] Trying To Dissect The Thierry Henry Handball […]
I’m an American and don’t really care whether France or Ireland qualifies – they’re both good teams. So I guess you could say I’m impartial. I will say this. Whatever respect I had for Henry and the French team is now gone. There is bad officiating and unseen accidental fouls in all sports, but Henry’s actions fall into a different category. First, Henry intentionally uses his hand to set up the winning goal, and second, he declines the opportunity to immediately explain that to the ref when he realizes the ref allowed the illegal goal. In my mind, this is the same as when Mike Tyson bit the ear of a boxing opponent (hidden from the ref), or when a pro baseball pitcher uses sandpaper in his glove to scratch up the ball. Classless, stupid, and against every notion of fair play and sportsmanship. The French team should be thoroughly embarrassed to continue in the competition and should resign from the tournament.
Interesting angle on this at http://www.footballtradedirectory.com/news/2009/november/henry-to-be-face-sponsorship-boycott.html – how Henry may miss out on sponsorship deals as a result of this dent on his image
Let me just try to summarise your argument;
1) Footballers cheat all of the time – they’ll do whatever it takes to win
2) It is the referee’s job to ensure fair play so players have no responsibility and it is therefore OK for Henri to “blame” the referee. It is not his fault. He is allowed to cheat if he can get away with it.
3) Quite often referees make mistakes and sometimes these mistakes can influence the result of the game
4) Therefore what happened is quite normal. Let’s get over it and move on.
5) Given this line of “thought”, the media and popular reaction is unexpected and quite irrational (unlike your argument).
Unfortunately, you’ve completely missed the point. The point is that the hysteria, as you put it, was entirely predictable because most people find cheating unacceptable and want something done about it. They are also sick to death of games being “ruined” by refereeing errors. Put these two factors together, i.e. the failure of a referee to spot a cheat, and have the consequence determine the result of a very important and high profile match and you have the ingredients for an inevitable outburst of outrage and anger.
What can be done? Well, unfortunately, anyone suggesting that the game should be replayed might just as well whistle dixie because a) it sets an impossible precedent (the ridiculous decision by the buffoons at FIFA to reply the Uzbekistan v Bahrain game not withstanding) and b) it is simply not going to happen. By the way, Henry’s suggestion that the game be replayed is just a pathetic attempt to curry favour with those who would now view him as a pariah. Why can’t he just say he regrets what he did? The reason is probably that he doesn’t.
However, whilst we might not be able to change history we can change the future and here there are two key arguments. First, Henry should be banned from at least the first three games of the World Cup Finals. It simply has to be made clear that cheating does not pay. If that doesn’t happen the culture within the game simply won’t change and “Paris, Nov ‘09” will happen again and again. Both Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho have had many run-ins with referees (both have behaved disgracefully at times), but it is not obvious that either have ever done much to discourage their players from diving (i.e. the poor old ref gets the blame every time) but if their top players started getting long suspensions for cheating their attitude would quickly change. Soon cheating would not be the done thing and would be discouraged by peers, not tolerated (as even the Irish players seem to have tolerated Henry). What makes so many people so angry (and that anger surfaces whenever we have an “Henry moment”) is that this has been so obvious for so long and yet FIFA have had neither the wit nor the courage to do anything.
Second is the more difficult question of the use of technology within games. The arguments against are entirely fatuous I’d say and reflect classic luddite-like behaviour. Where there’s a will there’s a way and just as Rugby, Cricket, Tennis and the American sports have figured out how technology can help, football too could find an answer if it wanted to solve the problem. What hurts and angers many most of all about Wednesday evening is the possibility that the failure of the lamentable Sepp Blatter and his acolytes to do anything suggests that they don’t really care; cheating and blatant injustice are all part of the beautiful game. I’d like to optimistic and believe that one day FIFA will be led by someone with intellect, vision, courage and integrity and that the world’s premier game will then clean up its act and join the modern world, but I’m not holding my breath.
So many points to answer, and so little time. I’ll start from the bottom up.
Chris – I’ll take your five assumptions from what I have written first.
1. Yes. That is what professional footballers do, and it is what they have done for as long as football has been professionalised.
2. No. The referee’s job is to try and ensure fair play. The players and the managers don’t make this easy for them. At no point did I say that it was Henry’s behaviour was “okay”. I didn’t really cast any moral aspersions on him really, apart from to say that this is what footballer’s do. In all honesty, the central point of what I was saying was concerned more with the media reaction to what happened.
3. Yes, obviously this happens.
4. I happen to think that this reaction is better for the blood pressure.
5. I certainly think that the last couple of days has been a pretty ludicrous over-reaction by the press, at least.
Chopper: “I find it incredibly depressing that we feel it’s appropriate to defend someone on that basis.” – Again, I tried to neither chastise nor laud Henry for his actions on Wednesday night.
I’ll try to get back to the rest of you later today.
just as Rugby, Cricket, Tennis and the American sports have figured out how technology can help
And in fact, in all these instances they’ve found that there can be as many problems involved in having video reviews as in not having them. What’s “fatuous” is not being aware of that, or of the possible differences between association football, which is not a game of “plays” (and therefore does not normally stop while the ball remains live) and most of the other sports involved. There are arguments both for and against, but those who don’t take the other side’s arguments seriously and treat with respect merely reveal their own limitations.
Of course the whole thing is a hysterical fuss. Many, many goals in football involve foul play being committed by the side that scores, not just those that involve handball by players competing against a national side from Britain and Ireland. It’s not a good thing, but neither is it an extraordinary thing and hence does not merit an extraordinary reaction. This would be so even if one felt that the British and Irish print media were people from whom one really wanted to have a lecture in ethics. Are they? Does anybody feel that, for instance, the Murdoch press is a candidate to occupy the moral high ground on anything?
Team Wins Crucial Game With Dodgy Late Goal. That’s the story, and it’s not a very big one.
As we pointed out on Twitter on Thursday morning, you can say what you like about the differing circumstances, the seeding, the sense of injustice but the hypocrisy of the FAI, the Irish fans and Robbie Keane is astounding …
When Robbie Keane scores with his hand for Spurs against Blackburn to earn a 3-2 victory, it is just a bit of luck, according to the man himself. When Ireland get a jammy penalty against Georgia in this tournament’s qualifying round when 1-0 down and being outplayed, it is just a bit of luck, according to Robbie. When, in the same game, Robbie hit the winner with the same body part (shoulder) the ‘penalty’ was given for striking, again it is just a bit of good fortune, apparently. Given these occurrences and the reaction from the Ireland players, fans and hierarchy, to the Hand of Gaul, you can’t help raising an eyebrow that they now seek retribution when the boot is on the other foot.
Like many folk, I wanted to see Ireland through and they were indeed hard done to but this is football, s*** happens. If this had happened to England there would have been a similar reaction from certain players and fans, of course, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t also be wrong.
Next time round I hope that Ireland find themselves against France again and that they get the rub of the Green – and that Robbie scores the winner with his hand, in fact both hands, diving full length as if saving the ball.
As a soccer referee have been unable to get a proper view of all that went on. Your description helps. You cannot call what you do not see.
Awful for the GAME.
Awful that the GAME has become BIG business.
Awful for the Irish fans.
Maybe time that better technology was available for the referees….
I don’t want to discuss Henry’s handball except to say it is irrefutable – both from video and Henry’s admission. But I want to draw attention to your opinion on the match officials. You claim “four players were directly in the referee’s line of sight” which, according to you excuses the referee of any blame. Then you claim the linesman was “in a similar predicament”, again excusing the linesman from any blame. On what section of the pitch were you standing to have such intimate knowledge of what both of these officials could actually see, or not see? The human eye is a wondrous thing. It has peripheral vision and more. Your argument that both officials did not see it based on evidence which we all have, which is the video, is only as good as my opposing argument that they did see it, but refused to acknowledge it. But let’s move on from this and discuss what the referee, if he had any sense of fair play, should have done in this situation. The game was a very crucial one where the winner would go straight to the WC finals and if this referee was oblivious to this fact he should not have officiated. It would only have taken him 30 seconds at the most to have resolved the issue on the pitch, much less when a player is injured and remains on the ground for minutes. Have another look at the video and see the Irish players protesting the second that Henry touches the ball with his hand, then look at the Irish goalkeeper run as fast as he can toward the referee the moment the goal is scored. And then the referee is surrounded with Irish players, all protesting of a handball. The referee dismisses them and rules it was a goal. The referee who got it terribly wrong due to his lack of common sense to consider the possibility that Henry had touched the ball. This is a significant flaw with referees: they think they are infallible in their decisions, and after a game has ended their shortcoming come to light there is no retribution for the team who has suffered from the referee’s unforgivable decision. No action is taken. FIFA turns a blind eye. We must accept the human error, blah, blah, blah. The proper action, considering the importance of the game, would have been for the referee to approach Henry and ask him if he had handled to ball. It would have taken no more than 30 seconds. If Henry had said no, then his reputation would be tainted as a cheat forever, for the video evidence would prove otherwise. If Henry had said yes, his reputation would be one of honour and respect. The game would have continued and probably have gone to penalties and no one would have complained of the result.
[…] There’s been a lot written about France beating Ireland to go to the World Cup, via Thierry Henry’s hand. Twohundredpercent writes perhaps the most level-headed assessment of events. […]
I can’t work out whether the author supports Arsenal or Tottenham. First time I’ve seen this site get it wrong but what a time to get it wrong.
This is the finest piece
I was there in Paris & I have to commend the French in general for their humbleness in victory & the dozens of apologies we received from genuine fans.
Although it’s too late to hope for any rectification of events for Ireland, I do however feel that if we tolerate this nonsense (cheating) in the same way as we tolerate divers in football, then it will surely ruin the game.
Time to take a leaf from Rugby Union and introduce video analysis at least to some extent to root out this behaviour.
Henry should not have celebrated as he did. No comparing or contrasting with other events or the domestic leage can argue against that point.
A fine article. Let’s hope this is the end of this debate but please FIFA wake up and move with the times or you risk alienating more people from the so called ‘beautiful game’.
Cheating, gamesmanship & diving are all practiced in training. They must be there’s no other way to describe the sly way it’s done; without thought or compunction. Witness the Ronaldo diving, The French Maradona, the managers blaming the refs for not seeing it whilst not seeing their player do it. When does the Respect Campaign start? Did it ever start in the PL? What are the FA going to do to clean up the game? (They’ve already made it a non-contact sport this season – when are they going to make it non-cheating – with trial by video evidence in following week giving out auto 3-match bans starting immediately & not at some pre-determined date that doesn’t upset certain mamnagers???)
It’s about time refs got the chance to answer back stating FACTS & not what certain managers don’t/want to hear. It’s time for instant video replays with ‘Handball’ written across it – isn’t ungentlemanly conduct a sending off offence any more? It was when I played.
Someone said on radio, 2 weeks ago that nothing can be done about the blatant handball, cheating, etc as it would set a dangerous precedent.
I’d like to know, before I jack in PL football for good, in what way it would be dangerous?
All the cheats would have to stop cheating? Divers stop diving? Disrespect give way to Respect – to ref, other players, fans? All the gamesmanship, kicking the ball away, offering ball then dropping it, niggles like spoilt brats having no sweeties allowed would stop? One-eyed biased managers would give honest opinions based on the game rather than just their player/cheat?
Dangerous huh. How refreshing.
Grow up guys. Act professional. Before fans & refs walk away.