The outrage in the Republic of Ireland can be heard all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. The world ended up focused on the tiny island with a population of just over 4 million people over a soccer game.
Unless you do not watch sports or you were living under a rock, here is what all the controversy is about. The French were leading the two leg series on a 1-0 aggregate after winning in Dublin in the first game.
In the second leg of World Cup qualifying the Irish were leading France 1-0 in overtime. With about 17 minutes to go until penalty kicks would have decided who earned a spot in the world’s largest tournament.
Here is what happened in the game when on a free-kick just past mid-field for France was kicked in to the box. First of all, the French had two players off-sides before the ball reached the box and a call should have been made by the referees’ assistant.
The off-sides was not called when French and Arsenal striker Thierry Henry cupped the ball into his arm to control the ball. Henry then was able to pass the ball to William Galla who was able to finish and put the French ahead 2-1 on aggregate and on to South Africa.
You can view the video and decide for yourself if it was a bad call for not.
The handball has been compared to the famous goal by Argentina’s Diego Maradona. The goal was said to have been helped in to the goal by “the hand of God” and put England out of the 1986 World Cup.
Henry’s goal was not as blatant as the goal by Maradona and should be more aptly named “the thumb of Jesus”. Below is the goal by Maradon if you have never seen it before.
The question is what does FIFA, do about Henry’s goal. They have already been questioned about the European draw to get the final four spots from the continent.
Golf is still the only sport where a player calls a penalty on themselves. So should Henry have told the referee that he touched the ball?
Did FIFA set the draw up so that the biggest named teams would make the World Cup and Ireland had no shot to begin with? These questions are hard to answer but, FIFA could deflect some of these questions if they would add instant replay to the sport.
Soccer would not be embroiled in this controversy if they had some form of replay. What should be more important to FIFA is what to do with France.
This is not the first controversy the French national team has been involved in. Nearly four years ago the French playing in the World Cup final brought soccer from the back page to the front with a single play.
French superstar Zinedine Zidane was caught on video delivering a head-butt to Italian defender Marco Materazzi. Zidane claimed he gave Materazzi the head-butt because of things that were said to him.
The 2006 World Cup would go on to be won by Italy in a penalty kick shoot-out 5-3 after the game ended at a 1-1 tie. The video of the head-butt can be seen below.
In their last two big games the French National team has been involved in controversy. The rest of the world and in America has to wonder two things.
First, is the French squad filled with dirty players and if so what to do about them. Secondly, is the French squad filled with players that cheat and again if so what to do about it.
Henry placed the blame of his hand-ball on the referee. One has to question whether Henry is the type of man to be a role-model.
What does it profit a man to gain the world if he loses his sole? That paraphrases a line from the book of Mark out of the Bible to describe the French situation.
What does it profit France to make the World Cup if the rest of the world is going to question your integrity and honesty? So France will be in South Africa in 2010 but how many head-butts and handballs will the French be allowed to have before FIFA changes.
Soccer will survive worldwide but as a game it will suffer in the United States. FIFA must do something to let the world know teams cannot bully or cheat their way to victories.