Thierry Henry's Hand & Roy Keane's Mouth Remind Me Why Football Is Great
Shay Given sits on the French turf and contemplates what might have been, his state of dejection is mirrored by the Irish fans at the other end of the stadium and by the millions at home in Ireland watching it on RTE as Eamon Dunphy declares "We were robbed."
Bleary-eyed from being up at six in the morning to catch the game on Australia ESPN, I sat in disgust as Thierry Henry, not once, but twice, handled the ball to set up William Gallas' winner and doom the Republic to another summer of inaction.
The disgust turned to rage as I text everyone and anyone who would read them that the "Thierry Henry 14" shirt that has made home in my closet since the Arsenal Invincibles era was no longer wanted.
Immediately Theirry Henry's indiscretion became global. Both Australian and International networks ran the story for days, the titles cliche ridden:
Henry Gives France A Helping Hand to South Africa.
Henry Hands France Victory.
The Irish media were not as kind, branding Henry as 'Le Cheat '. And what Henry did was cheating what ever which way you chose to look at it but at the end it proves so much why I and so many millions more love this game so much.
It opened an endless debate. Is Henry a cheat? Should France be made to replay the match? Is Raymond Domenech a cowboy coach who doesn't deserve to manage at the World Cup?
Was its Ireland's fault for not taking their chances? Did the French nation feel the embarrassment as embodied by Arsene Wenger's response?
Is Roy Keane a sideshow who needs to worry more about Ipswich and less about John Delaney? Should video technology be introduced?
As the dust has settled on my own cloud of anger I endeavour to answer these questions now.
Is Henry a cheat?
To put it simply, yes. What he did was cheating and the manner in which he celebrated made it worse.
The constant argument for the pro-Henry side has been that he was merely doing what any other professional would do to get his country to a World Cup.
Forgive me for being naive but perhaps he could have ran more? Tried to impact the game with his skill and speed?
What France got over the two legs was not the Henry of old and in the end he resorted to something from the lowest common denominator.
Surely a team that boasts players from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Lyon can pull something better out of the bag than a blatant handball?
If Arsenal fans are being honest, Henry was always prone to the odd dive and over the top reaction - just ask Carlos Puyol - but it is really not something that I expected to happen. He was playing Ireland but it wasn't Gaelic Football!!
His pitiful "remorse" afterwards made it even harder to bare. His only remorse was that the handball will stick with him and his career forever, not that he actually did it. Like a husband who has cheated, his only regret is been found out, not the act itself.
As a die hard Arsenal fan Henry's reputation has been tarnished somewhat in my eyes which leads to an important and valid point.
Is it only becomes I am Irish I care so much? If it was against England, Germany or Italy would it have even bothered me?
Would Thierry Henry still be the all time leading goalscorer for my club instead of the man who cheated my nation? Perhaps........probably!!
Should France be made to replay the match?
In a perfect world it would be a nice gesture for the French to offer a replay but its not going to happen, it would set a bad precedent.
Is Raymond Domenech a cowboy coach who doesn't deserve to manage at the World Cup?
Oui, Oui, Oui!!!
It would have been nice for Giovanni Trapattoni to get one last crack of the World Cup whip but alas it is not to be.
Its also a loss that Guus Hiddink couldn't guide Russia to South Africa but well done to Slovenia who fought their way there.
Raymond Domenech didn't get his players to South Africa, they got him their by fair means or foul.
Was its Ireland's fault for not taking their chances?
No. The game had penalty shoot-out written all over it. It's not like France took any of their chances either.
Did the French nation feel the embarrassment as embodied by Arsene Wenger's response?
Yes. They are a proud footballing nation who not so long ago won a World Cup and European Championship back-to-back. The bad press was world wide and the country enter the World Cup with a large shadow overhead.
Is Roy Keane a sideshow who needs to worry more about Ipswich and less about John Delaney?
This is like one of those situations where a bad pop act is on The X Factor and you'd rather not hear or read about them. Stop listening to them and they will go away.
Some say he is entertaining, many more will argue boring and attention seeking.
He claims it was Ireland's fault for not clearing the ball in the last few minutes, took Keane himself a while to get that through to the Ipswich players.
He seems to think he has more of a right to talk on the matter than Arsene Wenger as he is "Irish." Jeez, where in the world is Arsene Wenger from? France!! Now why does that country seem relevant.
All we appeared to have learnt is that Roy Keane likes himself, doesn't mind cheating because it is part and parcel of the game and feels hard done by, by the whole world.
Should video technology be introduced?
Yes. Mark Hughes and Arsene Wenger both made compelling arguments for video technology after the incident.
Wenger claimed it an injustice that two billion people worldwide could see it was a handball but one man couldn't, he being the most important.
FIFA have long campaigned against the introduction of replays stating they would break the flow of play.
As Mark Hughes rightly pointed out, doesn't the goal itself not break the flow anyway? What is a couple of more seconds to look over play going to change?
It works effectively in Rugby Union so why not at least test it in football?
So you see, while what Thierry Henry did was very wrong, his actions make you remember why you love the game so much.
His one action has created a mass of debates that has certainly kept me entertained in the pubs, on the internet and just in the street.
It is the pain you get from watching the game you love.
Chin up fellow people of the Emerald Isle, at least we have yet another moral victory to add to our collection.
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