Thierry Henry is a cheat and should be punished
Neil Clark: It’s time for video back-up: it will add to the drama of the game
It was perhaps the most blatant act of cheating in an important international football match since Diego Maradona's infamous 'Hand of God' knocked England out of the World Cup in 1986.
French striker Thierry Henry openly admits that he handled the ball in the move which led to his country's decisive goal in last night's World Cup qualifier with the Republic of Ireland.
But his attempt to pass responsibility on to the referee - who was unsighted - is unlikely to assuage the anger and sense of outrage felt by Republic of Ireland players and supporters, whose team misses out on next year's World Cup finals in South Africa as a result.
A 'We Irish Hate Thierry Henry the Cheat' Facebook page has already been set up: by 10am this morning, it had more than 24,000 fans. "We got robbed. It's cost a lot of us our dreams - as a boy I used to dream of playing in the World Cup, and now I'm not," bemoaned Irish defender Sean St Ledger.
It's not the first time that Henry, once the pride of Arsenal, now with Barcelona, has attempted to gain an unfair advantage at a vital stage of an international match.
In a knock-out match at the 2006 World Cup, France were drawing 1-1 with Spain when Henry pretended he had been struck in the face by Spanish defender Carlos Poyul as the two men chased the ball. France were awarded a free-kick from which they subsequently scored. They went on to win the game 3-1 and progressed to the quarter-finals - and then on to the World Cup final itself.
The Radio 5 commentator said after last night's disgraceful incident that Henry deserves to be booed every time he plays in the future. But surely more needs to be done - both against Henry in the short term and to ensure that blatant cheating in future matches is not rewarded.
Instead of looking forward to his country's World Cup campaign next summer, Henry should be facing the prospect of a FIFA ban for cheating. If the world's football authority is serious about improving the image of the sport, then prominent international players who are caught cheating should face lengthy bans.
Most important, video technology needs to be used during matches to make sure that cheats like Henry never prosper. It's done in rugby and it’s done in cricket. So why not in football?
The old argument that waiting for a third official to make decisions would prove unpopular with fans because it would slow down proceedings has not been borne out in other sports. If anything, it can add to the drama of the sport.
In crucial sporting events, such as World Cup qualifiers, surely we ought to be using every possible means to get the important decisions right?
Had there been a referee sitting in the stands in Paris last night, France's equaliser would not have been allowed. Of course, France may still have made it to South Africa on penalties. But at least then, their progression would not have left such a nasty taste in the mouth. ·
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