Is Thierry Henry a Cheat?

Henry controls the ball with his hand, enabling France to scoreThe evidence clearly suggests that Thierry Henry is a cheat, and a thief.

Video replays show that he controlled the ball with his hand at least twice, and possibly 3 times, in a split second incident 13 minutes into extra-time of the France-Ireland World Cup Qualifying Playoff.

Because of the resulting goal, France won, Ireland lost and won’t take part in World Cup South Africa 2010.

The referee missed the blatent (on replay!) handball at the time. Irish players, management and officials were incensed that such an obvious foul could be missed. Within 2 hours of the incident, 2000+ people had joined the Thierry Henry should apologise to Ireland Facebook group.

But is Henry a cheat and a thief? Well, honestly, I think that’s not relevant.

Sure, you can call him a cheat for his (probably instinctive) reaction, and hold it against him. If he was Irish, would we be complaining? I’d put money down that he himself was surprised the ref didn’t call him on it*. I also think that every sports person on the planet would admit that they occasionally cheat, whether it be deliberate or accidental. That’s why we have referees.

*Update: Henry post-match says virtually identical to the above:

I will be honest, it was a handball. But I’m not the ref. I played it, the ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him. – Henry

Damien Duff said he doesn’t blame Henry, and that he or Robbie would have tried it and would expect the ref/linesman to catch it.

An angry Twenty Major says we shouldn’t blame FIFA for our players squandering all those chances, and I’m 100% in agreement.

The real fault here lies with the wendybal football authorities on a different issue – they should have brought in video referral for controversial incidents like this one before now.  Every rugby fan is familiar with the question “Is there any reason why I cannot award this try?”. How about a bit of that on the soccer pitch?

Many (most?) professional sports have video or photo evidence: rugby union, rugby league, cricket’s 3rd umpire, tennis, American football, even the photo finish in horse racing and athletics, the list goes on.

I think the real topic in this incident is that soccer needs to bring in video evidence now. Enough of the stupid experiments with goal-line referees – let’s get the computers and videos in there.

Finally, Henry didn’t knock Ireland out. Even after the controversial goal Ireland still had to score just a single goal from the myriad of chances that we squandered. We cost ourselves – but it’s nice to have a scapegoat as we wallow in yet another glorious defeat.