Thierry Henry Doing Whatever It Takes

FRIDAY UPDATE: Said Thierry Henry today, “Of course the fairest solution would be to replay the game but it is not in my control.”

Not surprisingly, the soccer world sits transfixed this morning on Thierry Henry’s helping hand rather than the USMNT’s poor showing in Aarhus.


The play that propelled France to a World Cup finals over Ireland is being almost universally seen as a deliberate handball. In fact, Henry himself even admitted he used his left paw to bat the ball down towards his feet and left his fate at the mercy of the referee.

The game shouldn’t and won’t be replayed, but what about Henry’s confession? Is this one time we wish a player wasn’t honest? Would the injustice be a little more palatable if Henry had said, “The ball bounced up towards me and I did my best to control and pass to William.” Perhaps.

What Henry did on the pitch was wrong, but no matter which way he went with his comments after the game, he wasn’t going to be right. You might as well have asked Henry whether he wanted to be known as a “cheater” or “admitted cheater” at that point.

Not a classy move for someone who is reprenting a pretty good World Cup cause nonetheless off the pitch.

Grant Wahl wondered aloud last night (via Twitter) whether “fair play still mattered” in reference to Henry suggesting it was the official, not he that was at fault. Calls for “fair play” with the inference that Henry should somehow have red-carded himself for the infraction are easy when the fate of a proud footballing nation isn’t resting on your shoulders and you haven’t been taught to do everything it takes to win. And when was the last time the scoring team approached the referee asking him to disallow the goal?

Those who support Ireland as well as those who wanted to see France lose are justifiably outraged at the official, Henry and to an extent FIFA,  but let’s not forget that Ireland had 180 other minutes to ensure that one moment of shenanigans wouldn’t derail their World Cup bid.

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37 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/19 at 8:59 AM

    Completely on point Mark — with almost a day to think about it here…I think your comments are spot on in terms of reflecting on the play, the outcome of the game and the participants involved.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/19 at 9:07 AM

    “Those who support Ireland as well as those who wanted to see France lose are justifiably outraged at the official, Henry and to an extent FIFA, but let’s not forget that Ireland had 180 other minutes to ensure that one moment of shenanigans wouldn’t derail their World Cup bid.”

    It still doesn’t make what he did right. I hope RBNY does not bring this cheater to the MLS. Spend the money on someone else please.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/19 at 9:16 AM

      It absolutely wasn’t “right,” and I said as much in the post above (third paragraph from the bottom), but didn’t Damien Duff blow a relatively easy chance that would have sealed the victory and precluded any extra time.

      I’m just pointing out that everyone knows that anything can happen in sports, lucky or unlucky, and every team has the opportunity to ensure that it doesn’t come down to one fluke play or blown decision by a game official.

      Reply

      • Not to mention that the lone photo I’ve seen of the goal has Gallas making contact with the ball (not in the net yet) and two Irish defenders not near enough to him to stop anything, with their arms raised begging for the call. While I haven’t yet seen the replay of the goal, the picture I saw on Soccernet leads me to believe that the Irish defenders placed their World Cup chances into the hands of the official in hopes that the correct call would be made (or at least seen), instead of playing until you hear the whistle. Which is done far too often in today’s game.

        While the Irish deserve sympathy for being drawn against France and losing on a bad non-call, they also deserve part of the blame for (as has been pointed out above) missing sitters, and not playing until the whistle blew.

        Reply

  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/19 at 9:11 AM

    (Singing)

    One of these things is not like the other:

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/19 at 9:17 AM

      I think you could remake that with Agassi (admitted to doing meth and deceiving the ATP), Henry and….can’t think of a golf cheater.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Arcticrules on 2009/11/19 at 10:12 AM

    He is not a cheater. He reacted to something that took perhaps 1/2 a second. To cheat in my mind requires forethought and intent to deceive. I do not think Henry can be fairly attributed with either mental state in the split second act. I don’t follow Henry’s historical play but from the reaction of many it seems like they are coming into this with a bias against him. Not sure whether that bias is founded on anything real or whether it is just dislike for reasons unrelated to football.

    Reply

    • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/19 at 11:32 AM

      He deliberately controlled the ball with his hand. How much more in the wrong can you possibly get? Henry is regarded as one of the all time great sportsmen. He is widely respected for all that he has done for fair play and sportsmanship, yet you see people trashing him so openly BECAUSE HE BLATANTLY CHEATED. Henry broke the cardinal rule of the game. He essentially stole millions and millions of Euros from Ireland with a scoop of the ball.

      Reply

      • Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/19 at 1:42 PM

        If this had been the US (instead of France) and put in Mexico (instead of Ireland) would you be saying the same thing? I haven’t seen or heard Henry’s interview but I believe him to be a fair player (historically) and I don’t see him as a “cheater.” Yes, he handled the ball and Yes it should have been called by the ref. Maybe it’s time for instant replay or more officials. If you watched the Italy/Holland game from Saturday, there was a similar situation where a player from Italy clearing punched the ball with his arm into the goal. Neither the official on the field nor the lines official saw it. Only after the officials saw the replay on the big screen at the statium did they reverse the goal and got the call correct.

        Reply

        • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/20 at 5:44 AM

          Yeah I would be saying the same thing. F**k people who cheat on purpose. I hate it when people dive. I don’t care if it is Fernando Torres (I am a Liverpool fan) or Cristiano Ronaldo (whom I despise). Cheating is a blight on the game. It is comical that you assert that someone can’t hate cheaters… obviously it must be some sort of homerism that motivates every single thought.

          [Editor's Note: TSG added the "**" above]

          Reply

        • Posted by MattE on 2009/11/20 at 12:09 PM

          Something I have never heard people talk about is using the stadium big screen replay to make calls (as referenced above in the Italy/Holland game). Another instance was in the last World Cup Final when Zidane headbutted Matterazi. None of the officials saw the headbutt until the replay in the stadium showed it. Then they gave him a red card. Is that not a form of video replay. If so, the stadium editing crew for the home team should be quick to replay close calls that would be beneficial to the home side and not replay fouls or goals that might impact the decision of the ref for the away side. Should refs be able to look at the jumbo tron and make decisions after the fact? It should be debated and made a rule one way or the other… thoughts?

          Reply

  5. Posted by kaya on 2009/11/19 at 11:52 AM

    It’s a sorry end to the story. But honestly, I see this as no different than diving to win a penalty. I’ve seen it so many times in the WC itself, I’m a little surprised people don’t seem to realize this isn’t isolated at all.
    On the note of “people who wanted to see France lose”: I’ve always felt this strange phenomenon has a large part to do with racism. It goes beyond a certain amount of schadenfreude that many people have when England lose. Monkey calls still make regular appearances in stadia across europe, and don’t even get me started about the crap said in the americas. It seems that non-french people either love or hate the french and I don’t really understand either… but when it comes to football, I believe a lot of the anti-french sentiment comes from the fact most of the team is black.
    Unfortunately, France are going to manage to make enemies of one of the few countries that seem(ed) to genuinely have a decent opinion of their team.
    On that note, I think the game should be replayed. I think the French FA should ask FIFA to have it replayed, but they won’t. What a mafia FIFA is.

    Reply

    • Posted by Brad on 2009/11/19 at 1:14 PM

      “It’s a sorry end to the story. But honestly, I see this as no different than diving to win a penalty.”

      It’s funny you say that, because they tried to do that too. Anelka went down off a weak Given challenge not five minutes before the hand-goal.

      Reply

      • Posted by kaya on 2009/11/19 at 1:36 PM

        He did. And people would’ve been wagging their fingers over it, but not incensed like they are over Henry. That was my point.

        Reply

    • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/20 at 5:46 AM

      I would say it is different. Not touching the ball with your hand is the CARDINAL RULE OF THE GAME. It is what the sport is based on. Yet, for some reason, Henry thinks it is okay to CATCH THE BALL AND DROP IT TO HIS FEET. He pretty much said, “f**k the rules of this sport and f**k everyone who believes in fair play.” I can understand the ref not being able to see it, and I can understand FIFA not grating a replay, but they need to give him a serious, serious ban. Henry Winter has been calling for a ban from the World Cup, and I agree.

      Diving pisses me off, too, but I would say that grabbing the ball with your hand ON PURPOSE is a whole different level of cheating.

      [Editor's note: TSG added the "**" above.]

      Reply

  6. Posted by shane on 2009/11/19 at 12:20 PM

    too say that he “reacted” and that you can’t call him a cheater for that is wrong.. Watch the video.. He clearly uses his damned cheating hand..

    I like Henry always have, but this was blatant poor play at its best…

    Reply

  7. Posted by Brad on 2009/11/19 at 1:22 PM

    I have to say that your idea that Ireland had 180 others minutes to score is complete shit, sorry. They played those 180 minutes fairly for goals expecting that France would try just as hard to score goals within the rules.

    What happened is clear: The French were down at home, and were feeling lucky to not have lost (the easy chances you mention) and were starting to get desperate. Desperate people break the rules. FIFA should be ashamed for going along with this and trying to avoid dealing with it. (Go to FIFA.com, user comments are disabled on all articles related to this match.)

    What should be done in fairness is to discount the goal but allow the rest of the game to stand, since it’s been played anyway. Therefore it’s a tie, and you call the players back for a shootout. It’ll never happen, but it should.

    As far as replaying a game, it has been done before. Once Uzbekistan beat a team 1-0, but FIFA made them have a do-over because an Uzbek player was taking a penalty, did his run-up too early, and the ref gave a free kick to the other team (instead of making him retry the penalty.) Therefore, the game had to be replayed even though the penalty-not-happening benefitted the team that was already losing and went on to lose anyway!

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/19 at 2:46 PM

      Brad: I would refer to Nick’s comments on the 180 minutes. Instead of completing the play it was Gallas and not the Ireland defenders that finished the play.

      Should the Irish defenders have played through a non-whistle this discussions likely wouldn’t have happened either.

      Reply

      • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/20 at 5:48 AM

        I’m not entirely sure that Gallas didn’t have those defenders beat anyways. Either way, your point is moot. He cheated. Just because the Irish are dumb and don’t play until the whistle doesn’t matter.

        Reply

        • Gallas may have had them beat, but the point still stands. Henry cheated, that much is certain after watching that video once, but the Irish didn’t have to let that one cheating action result in a goal the way it did. If they had kept playing and Gallas still scored then at least the Irish did everything in their power to stop the injustice.

          The old addage “Cheaters never prosper” doesn’t work if you sit idly by hoping for someone else to notice the infringement and act accordingly, you have to act accordingly as well.

          Reply

  8. Posted by Arcticrules on 2009/11/19 at 2:36 PM

    Are you serious Matt? Handing the ball does not make someone a cheat. Paying a ref does, using banned substances does. But calling what Henry did cheating makes the word lose it’s meaning. What if the ball had been over the endline but Henry pulled it back in (using his foot) and kept playing like it was in bounds? While not an honest play that would not have created an uproar but what’s the distnction? Both plays involve a player trying to play a dead ball and benefiting from it because the ref didn’t blow his whistle. Henry shouldn’t ( and doesn’t) feel proud of what he got away with but he is not in a category separate from most footballers who will play to the edge of the rules for the good of their team.

    Reply

    • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/20 at 5:49 AM

      I’d say that what Henry did is about the worst form of cheating you could possibly committ (besides the fixing a game thing you mentioned).

      Reply

      • Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/20 at 7:39 AM

        I disagree with you Matt and I agree with Arcticrules. This was a reactionary play by Henry. The only way I would call it cheating is if Henry had a pre-meditated thought saying “if I can’t get to this ball, then I will try to use my hand as an advantage and see if I can get away with it” But I highly doubt Henry was thinking this before the play and most likely an accident.
        On the other hand, there are some players who have pre-meditated thoughts about diving in the box when they are not even touched and I would label that as a form of cheating.

        Reply

        • Posted by Rick on 2009/11/23 at 2:08 PM

          What you say makes no sense. Was he looking for opportunities to cheat? Probably not. But to an extent, it was premeditated. How far in advance may be a question, but we need to put his action into context. This is not something that Henry is known for. The opportunity presented itself, and he made the decision to handle the ball. It’s clear, then that this was a calculated risk on his part.

          The real question, in my mind, is this: when is FIFA going to come into the new millenium? I was unaware of the replay incident in the Italy/Holland game that Matt mentioned. I’d like to see instant replay available for the officials, in certain instances. I don’t understand why we’re not hearing more talk about this. Stopping the action 10 times per game isn’t a good idea, but in cases of potentially game changing plays such as this, the referee should be able to see all available replays to ascertain what really happened. FIFA should also punish players for uncalled infractions after the fact. If true fair play is the question, then discovery of serious cheating after games have ended should be dealt with. The NFL does this right. Enforcing justice on the playing field should be what matters. If players know they can get away with cheating, there will always be examples of this, where individuals will take their chances to see what they can get away with. (Players cheat even with strict enforcement in place, but to a much lesser extent, I think).

          Reply

  9. Posted by kaya on 2009/11/19 at 3:57 PM

    Honestly, I just can’t see why this play has elicited so much more uproar than many others. Thinking back to the 2006 WC, 2 examples come to mind, one of them involving Henry.
    He play acted to earn a free kick against Puyol. That free kick was the game winner. Also, Italy vs Australia. Blantant dive in the 90th minute to earn a PK. Of course they went on to win the WC and probably no one remembers the dive I’m referring to. I doubt the same can be said for Henry.
    There are countless examples of “cheaters” being rewarded. It’s lame, sure. But there’s a lot of money in sport. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the 2 “best players in the world” are known for cheating.

    Reply

    • I remember the Italy vs. Australia dive very clearly. I called it a dive the second I saw it in live-action, and all different angles of replay confirmed my suspicion. That one is as memorable as this one because it kept a plucky under-talented side (compared to their opponent) from deservedly sending the match into ET or PKs. I think the worst part of this whole thing is the Henry basically admitted it and went so far as to infer that he’ll do it again.

      The Italian version of Greg Luganis did not quite make the same comments in the post-match. The Italians also were not gifted an “easier” opponent due to last minute UEFA and FIFA pandering/impugning/tinkering with the competition format. If Ireland had won it, FIFA and UEFA would’ve been left with egg all over their faces and some half-hearted congratulations to the Irish.

      As for the best being known for cheating, sadly it’s a part of life the the d-bags we all knew and loathed in our youth were given seemingly everything even though it was plain as day that they didn’t deserve any of it. Here we have two extremely talented players (I assume you’re referring to Crissy and Ti-Ti) that don’t need to cheat to win, and yet they’re engaging in d-baggery simply because they can. While FIFA shouldn’t replay the game as it would set a dangerous precedent, I don’t think a heft suspension for the first two games of the World Cup for [essentially] admitting that you intentionally cheated, which (as the English love to say) brings the game into disrepute. And as for Crissy, let’s just get a physics major or two to watch his games and assess suspensions, anyone who knows anything about human locomotion knows your legs don’t fly out behind you when you get brushed from the side.

      Reply

      • Posted by kaya on 2009/11/19 at 5:00 PM

        Actually, I was referring to the another player gifted with a “mano de dios”, Messi.
        I totally understand Ireland’s frustration. But anyone who says if they tables were turned and Ireland wouldn’t have taken the goal in the same fashion, I simply don’t believe them.
        Fair play is a nice slogan, but they really need to find a way to incorporate video replay.

        Reply

  10. Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/19 at 3:58 PM

    Over-react much, Time magazine? Time has Henry’s helper as the #1 on their Top 10 Sporting Cheats list. Considering the Hand of God (#11) happened in the WC, this makes no sense. However, perhaps Time just brought back and old list and threw Henry up top.

    http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1925040,00.html

    Reply

    • Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/20 at 2:39 PM

      I saw the list. I agree it makes no sense. On the “DIShonorable mention list” you could include Marion Jones and Barry Bonds… Also, why call it a top 10 when there are 11 on the list??

      Reply

      • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/20 at 2:46 PM

        re: 11 on the list…That’s why I think they may have thrown Henry at the top of an old list.

        Reply

  11. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/20 at 5:59 AM

    I guess I just have one final thing to say. I am especially angry at Henry for two reasons:

    1) His handball was clearly intentional, and he touched it not once, but twice.
    2) He admitted it was intentional.

    The situation certainly makes his actions even more despicable, but really this is just piling on top of the massive amount of deception that is already present in football worldwide. Diving is an “accepted” part of the game now. Shit… most of the weeks that go by, we aren’t talking about that amazing goal that Player X scored or that great save that someone made, we are talking about the biggest dive of the weekend that saved someone’s season or gave them an upset win, etc. FIFA/UEFA have shown zero spine in dealing with cheating/deception in any form. These actions are a blight on the beautiful game, and they are stopping the growth of soccer in the US. Many US sports fans, who may not be soccer fans at all, will see this highlight 20x on Sportscenter this week. Even my friends who don’t watch soccer at all wonder how something like this can happen. When you couple this with the perception that all soccer players and pussies and dive all the time, the sport is really delegitimized. Actions like Henry’s intentional handball and the plethora of dives that result in game-changing PKs on a weekly basis must be stopped! How many great matches will we have to see ruined before FIFA actually does something about it. They need to start handing out 10 match bans to any cheater/deceiver, and seriously consider season long and lifetime bans for repeat offenders. If you watch high school players, you will see guys that play with heart and play until the whistle. They don’t lay out on the pitch anytime someone comes near them. They need to come down hard on cheaters so that the game doesn’t get ruined any more than it already has been.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/20 at 8:10 AM

    In case you scrolled past the top of the post, Henry thinks “a replay would be the fairest solution.” Wow. I am going to guess that doesn’t make the Irish feel any better.

    As many have wondered over the past day, does Henry’s confession constitute “deceiving the referee?” Should he be suspended for at least part of the World Cup?

    Also, if you read the article, Henry said it was instinct that led to the handball. Although it may have been, I am having a hard time buying that one. Henry has trained for thousands of hours to not use his hands. You train that long to ingrain a “new” instinct in your actions so that you react in a certain way without thinking about it.

    Reply

    • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/20 at 8:21 AM

      Henry only came out and said that after FIFA already ruled against a replay.. just like he only came out and said he was sorry for the handball after the match was over and France was in the World Cup.

      Reply

  13. Posted by ChrisR on 2009/11/20 at 11:49 AM

    From Roy Keane – a very interesting interview on the situation. Does he fault Henry? No. He faults the Irish squad that let Henry get goal side and let the ball land in the six yard box.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/8370497.stm

    “Is Henry a cheat? > It was his instinct or reaction – you go for the ball…would I call him a cheat? No, I don’t think so. I think…did he bend the rules a little bit, Yes…but people do that all the time in games”

    Reply

  14. [...] could be nothing more than a dog-and-pony show to give the appearance that FIFA takes the Henry affair seriously and that soccer is on the proverbial “up-and-up.” Should no action of any [...]

    Reply

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