Hand games

For a period during my teens I played a lot of handball and got really rather good at it. For those who don’t know it, the quickest way of describing it would be to say that it’s like a trimmed down version of indoor soccer played with the hands rather than the feet. Back then, I was a prolific goalscorer. And from that vantage point, I can tell you that Thierry Henry’s skills at handball are excellent: his move to control the ball with his hand before scoring was a classic. The only slight problem is that he wasn’t playing handball.

OK, so what am I talking about? If you don’t know the answer you are not Irish and have not seen any Irish news media over the past 24 hours. No harm to you, here’s the brief explanation. Last night the Irish football (soccer) team played its last qualifying game for the World Cup in South Africa next year. It was the second (and final) game against France; the first leg had been played last Saturday in Dublin, and last night (in Paris) Ireland needed to win the game in order to qualify. Things were going well, with an Irish goal courtesy of Robbie Keane, when just before the end the ball fell to French player Henry, who handled it deftly and allowed team mate Gallas to score. The goal should have been disallowed and Ireland should have had a free kick, but the referee didn’t see it and allowed the goal, and Ireland were cheated out of their place in the World Cup.

In case you think this is a partisan account, let me quote Thierry Henry himself:

‘It was a handball, but I’m not the ref. The ball hit my arm, fell in front of me and I played it. The ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.’

Well of course, all sorts of people are asking the referee. And there is now a campaign for a replay. What has happened here is that an admitted foul was the basis for an undeserved French win. It really should not be allowed to stand. The people should rise up in anger! I fear justice will not prevail, but we should never let it go by default.

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6 Comments on “Hand games”

  1. Mark Dowling Says:

    Meh. Obviously I would have taken the win if we got it but I suspect a lot of the folks complaining about this weren’t looking for a replay in 1986 because it was England who got screwed.

    If the linesman had flagged the offside first off – no goal. If McShane had set himself to clear the ball rather than assuming Dunne would take care of it – no goal. If the linesman had seen and flagged the handball (either one) – no goal.

    The reality is – the World Cup is an a involuntary cutback. The nation can’t be borrowing to fill the pockets of the airlines right now.

  2. Vincent Says:

    Hmmmmm, where’s the Wall. No wall no handball.
    Since Lidl and Aldi arrived here they have produced sets of French Boules. While in France these 500g cannon balls are tossed like horseshoes, here they are spun across miles of country roads to practice cracking the crown of some Redcoat-just in case. And while they do not have the force of powder behind them, a half kilo of iron arriving at 100kph will do some work.
    But how on earth can all this bile be directed at Henry. Surely he did what his body has been trained to do when he sees a ball at his foot. A reflex, as it were.
    For what it is worth, I’ve more time for Soccer today than I had yesterday, because of what Henry said.
    Anyhoos, I’ve as yet to see this game you played.

  3. The French media have caught on to the replay request – and to be fair to them, most of the French newspapers feel that France has got to the World Cup (if there isn’t a replay) by the wrong route. See e.g.

  4. Andrew Says:

    Just to clarify — Henry didn’t score the goal. He set up Gallas who scored.

  5. I feel quite sorry for him in a way, but also think its a shame for ireland. Maybe a replay is the best route, as it levels the playing field.

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