NOT SINCE MARADONA HAS ONE PLAYER HANDED OUT SUCH A BITTER DEFEAT
When Irish eyes are crying, at least this time around, it's because their World Cup dreams were crushed by a flagrantly unfair, overtime match-winning goal.
If you haven't seen it yet search it on youtube. French striker Thierry Henry clearly touches the ball not once, but twice with his hand before he flicks it on (with his foot) to the head of a teammate who sends it in to the net. This was a playoff for a coveted spot in next summer's World Cup tournament in South Africa.
Now Ireland's football federation is demanding the international governing body of soccer (FIFA) have the match replayed. It won't happen. Oh what a terrible way to lose a crucial game. It's sort of happened before. In the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals, Argentina beat England when Diego Maradona used his fist instead of his head to put the ball in the net. That goal was later dubbed "the hand of God".
In this case, FIFA, the match referees and Henry himself have all acknowledged that it was a handball. To Americans who don't follow the sport, what little they know is that soccer, by it's most basic characteristics is all about NO HANDS. That means this goal is a violation of the one simple, basic rule that everyone knows, even our millions of American-sports-loving soccer-haters.
To his credit Henry admitted right away that it was a handball, but pointed out that he's not the ref, the ref didn't call it so he played on. Thierry Henry is a class act. Long acknowledged as one of the world's best magicians with the ball at his feet, now recognized as pretty good with his hands too.
If you saw the 60 Minutes piece on racism in European soccer and what black players have to endure from the mouths of fans in opposing stadiums....it was Henry who was interviewed for the segment. When he played for English Premier League powerhouse Arsenal, I sat in a stadium in North London and watched him play. It was April of 2004. Arsenal was hosting my favorite team, Liverpool. I was seated right behind the goal when Thierry Henry scored one of the most amazing goals I've ever seen. It was one of three he scored that day in Arsenal's 4-2 win over Liverpool. Even though my team lost I left Highbury that day thrilled to have seen an incredible match and to have seen one of the world's best players chalk up a hat trick.
Now his hand trick has him in the spotlight and under fire. Mistakes by game officials happen...players often take what they can get. It's just too bad this one happened with so much on the line, and that this one took so much away from a team and a nation. As a fan, I hope it doesn't take anything away from the sport.
We'll talk again soon.
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