Ireland deserve a replay says Thierry Henry
But the Frenchman insists he is not a cheat and the fateful handball was accidental
The French striker Thierry Henry said today that a replay of Wednesday night's World Cup qualifier between Ireland and France would be the "fairest solution". This follows mounting controversy over the blatant handball by Henry which led directly to a French goal and saw Ireland knocked out of the World Cup finals.
"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," said Henry in a statement issued today. "Of course the fairest solution would be to replay the game but it is not in my control."
He issued the statement after Fifa, football's governing body, had already turned down a request by the Irish for a replay, as reported earlier on The First Post. The French football federation (FFF) also rejected the idea that France should volunteer to replay the game.
Henry's mea culpa comes in the wake of one of the most obvious incidents of handball ever seen at this level of the game - equal to the notorious "hand of God" goal scored by Argentina's Maradona which knocked England out of the 1986 World Cup.
However, while admitting his mistake, Henry still claims the handball was unintentional. "I have said at the time and I will say again that yes I handled the ball," today's statement read. "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. 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 little more 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."
Arsene Wenger, the manager of Henry's former club, Arsenal, said the incident added weight to the growing case for the introduction of video technology, as proposed yesterday on The First Post by Neil Clark.
"In the end, he [the referee] gave a goal already knowing that it wasn't a goal," said Wenger. "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." ·
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