Thoughts from Blog-ingham

Don’t hate the player, hate the game

Posted in Current Affairs, Football, sport by adamellis1985 on November 19, 2009

So, France are going to the World Cup. Keane and co can begin booking their summer holidays for 2010, as they are not going anywhere. The Football Association of Ireland has lodged a complaint with FIFA asking for their World Cup play-off against France to be replayed. Good luck getting Michele Platini to sign that one off! Ireland are out though. That is final. The result says so. And FIFA will not intervene and reverse the result or call for a replay.

In case you haven’t already heard, Thierry Henry broke Irish fans hearts’ last night by scoring in extra time to send France to the 2010 World Cup. As if there hadn’t been enough injustice in the lead up to the World Cup playoffs with the seedings debacle, Ireland were outdone after being arguably the strongest team in their two legged playoff match with France. They battled for 180 minutes across and after being beaten in Ireland showed tremendous courage in beating France 1-0 in Paris to force extra time.

Step up on Monsieur Henry. A double handball hand ball later in the penalty area and a pass to William Gallas who put the ball into an empty net sent Les Blues through 2-1 on aggregate. Irish protestations obviously followed but nothing came of it. A referee never changes his decision. In a statement today, football’s world governing body said: “As stated in Law 5 of the Laws of the Game, and also in Article 13, paragraph 6 of the Regulations of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, ‘no protests may be made about the referee’s decisions regarding facts connected with play. Such decisions are final, unless otherwise stipulated in the Fifa Disciplinary Code.'”

The media reaction and the reaction in Ireland has been phenomenal. A sense of injustice is being felt and the arguments will ramble on all the way to South Africa next summer where the finals are being held. The Irish FA and even the Irish government (who have been heavily involved today) should ask themselves what they would have made of it Robbie Keane scoring a similar goal at the other end of the stadium to take Ireland to the World Cup? Robbie Keane would not have turned round and told the referee he had handled the ball and there should be no goal. This simply does not happen. Football begins as a level playing field each match and some decisions will go with and some will go against your team. Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic of Ireland’s manger is hugely experienced and knows very well that if it had been the other way round that he would have thought it was hard luck the French but there is nothing that can be done. Trapattoni is a realist and said after the game, he does not expect a replay. “When a referee decides a game has finished I know it is impossible to replay the game,” said the Italian.

Some pundits, like Tony Cascorino, a former Republic of Ireland international have suggested that Henry should have done the gentlemanly thing and owned up to the referee that he had controlled the ball with his hand. This is ludicrous. We cannot get to the stage where players have the power to overturn referees decisions even for the better. Self regulation of a football match by players will lead to chaos and the referee will not have a clue what is going on (which by the way is often the situation now anyway) It would be a case of the lunatics running the asylum. Not all players will own up to the referee on diving or handling the ball, some might but others (most) won’t.

But can we follow Cascorino’s train of thought and blame Thierry Henry for not owning up to his indiscretion? The simple answer is no. If Ireland’s talismanic striker Robbie Keane had scored in similar fashion at the other end, he would have run off towards the Irish fans and done his trademark cart wheel in celebration at the thought of playing on the world’s biggest stage next summer and being the Irish hero who had sent them there. The Irish FA have cleverly introduced mind games by lavishing praise on Henry’s talents as a footballer before pointing out that his legacy will be tainted with this scandal. But it won’t, as Henry is protected by the fact that the decision was not his to make. Henry knows he hand balled it but jurisdiction for this decision was not his. It was the match officials’ choice and that is where the buck stops; unfortunately for the Irish fans.

Henry obviously did something wrong if he deliberately handled the ball and deceived the referee. This is cheating. But the simple way to eradicate this is to introduce technology to stop it. These things happen in sport and they will happen again. It goes back to the famous 1966 World Cup Final where England benefited from a dodgy Russian linesman. What would have happened in 1986 if one Diego Maradona had so, ‘oh hang on a sec, I didn’t head that in, I used my fist.’ England may have won the 1986 World Cup. But Maradona was never going to own up to it in the same way Henry wasn’t going to. The stakes were too high. Whether they should have owned up could take another entire blog post. But it is Football as a sport that is in the wrong by remaining in the dark ages of technology. Other sports have demonstrated how easy it is to incorporate technology that aids the fair outcome of a sporting tussle. Look at how hawk eye has been introduced into Tennis Grand Slams. Video replay technology has been introduced into international Rugby for try decisions and is used in Cricket to decide on run outs. Football is big business and the amount of money the Irish FA are going to lose out on in sponsorships and endorsements is huge considering how easy it would have been to ensure they had a fair chance of realising their World Cup pot of gold dream.

The game last night is undoubtedly more evidence for the need for technology to aid the match officials for goal line decisions or penalty area decisions but not all over the pitch. It won’t spoil the game and will vastly improve it. Had it been introduced this year and France were beaten on penalties, Monsieur Henry may well be at home now flicking through holiday brochures for next summer as he wouldn’t be going to South Africa.

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3 Responses

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  1. Dave Power said, on November 20, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Great piece Adam!,

    I have to say i do feel for the Irish. They suffered at the hands of seeding on 2 occasions, and then suffered at the hands of Henry on 2 occasions. Reports suggest that the Irish economy will loose out on 1,000,000,000 Euros as a result of losing out on qualification. Brands such as Guiness and PaddyPower.com must be in tears! Put yourself in the position of Ireland. Imagine winning the Euro Millions to then have your ticket stolen from you 10m from the post office, with a three policeman surrounding you, each with their vision partially obstructed by lamposts.

    Unfortunately replays are out of the question, as is banning Henry from the World Cup (what would this achieve?). The solution? Well i will have to take the same approach as FIFA and say nothing till the whole storm blows away.

    • irishherault said, on November 21, 2009 at 8:28 am

      Dave may be exaggerating on the figure €1,000,000,000 (a trillion euros?) – it’s probably more along the scale of €100,000,000 (€100 million). Yes, replays are out of question, and video replays at the highest level of the game are clearly needed, but FIFA insists on doing nothing.

  2. Dave Power said, on November 23, 2009 at 11:17 am

    1,000,000,000 is a billion Euros which ain’t that much if you think how much drinking and gambling goes on during a major tournament!


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