Thursday, November 19, 2009

La Honte de Henry

It hurts. Sweet Lord how it hurts. A night of fitful sleep punctured by dreams of a winning goal on 121 minutes has passed and it still hurts like a punch in the solar plexus. It was one of the best performances ever seen from an Irish team, men who grew from journeymen in Stoke and Wolves, to giants playing with composure and skill. The truth is we deserved it. We deserved it more than the French. And for so long we had the champagne on ice, only for the grapes to turn sour by a mind-blowing piece of cheating.

But amid all that, amid the heartache and the tears and the it’s-just-not-fair of it all, three things stand out. One, that FIFA is a farcical organisation dancing on Jules Rimet’s dream by seeding playoffs (how, I mean HOW can they justify it, other than telling the truth – that a Mondial without Ronaldo and Henry rather loses its sheen). Two, the ref had a good game, apart from the obvious. He could easily have given France a penalty late in the second half and then it would have been good night Josephine anyway.

And third, though it hurts like hell to write it, Henry did the decent thing. OK, ok, he could have run over to the referee and said no, fair cop, I handled it. But would Robbie Keane have done that? Would Bobby Charlton, the cleanest player ever? Would he f…

Henry could have done a Maradonna and been smarmy in a hand of God way but no. He went straight over to our boys and didn’t just mutter “sorry lads” and give a patronising ruffle of the hair. He sat with them, while million voices roared “CHEAT” at screens from Dallas to Darwin (I, rather pretentiously hollered “La Honte” and worse at the few Frenchies in O’Brien’s of Kiev).

After the game Henry told the press: “I said that I handled it to Richard Dunne but he said to me … you’re not the referee”. 

And Sean St Leger, who’s hip deflected the ball into the net in Croke Park put it well: “it doesn’t look great, but he’s got his team to the World Cup finals. If it had been one of our team we’d have probably done the same. The blame doesn’t necessarily fall on him, but he’s handled it. Everyone can see it around the world.”

Sometimes luck vanishes. We had ours in ’87 when Scotsman Gary MacKay put us into our first finals with a goal from nowhere on a cold night in Sofia. But we’ve had precious little since. All the way from Schillaci to Squillaci, you might say.



  1. I would be much harder on Henri. Deliberate hand ball, not once but twice, which is blatant, stone cold deliberate. The maxim cannot be "get punished if caught" - and look at the way he 'celebrated' the goal - another great 'performance' for the ref's benefit. Disgusting. Has to be said tho that the French people and media were extremely dignified and even ashamed. Everyone in Paris last nite and this morning were so apologetic. L'Equipe, France's main sports paper, even called for a replay and ran a full page color photo of Henry's deliberate hand ball. This whole episode is just part of the FIFA farce as you pointed out. Rigging the play off draw showed complete disregard for the footballing aspirations of smaller nations like Ireland and Bosnia and over indulgence in the 'big' nations like France - no wonder they (the French team) are so crap if they get so molly-coddled and protected by the fat suits in FIFA - verging on the criminal. I see the Irish Minister of Justice has just joined the fray - this one will take a while to go away and still - 24hrs after the event - the cowards of FIFA remain silent and stubborn. Here is a good article by one of the best soccer writers out there:

    There is also a Facebook Fan Page which is aiming to hit a million fans screaming for a replay - screaming for justice:

    Looking forward to reading Rob Hughes on this - hopefully tomorrow in the IHT..

  2. I feel for you Paul. Getting to the world cup is the dream of every nation, and to have that chance robbed, hurts like hell.

    You have a great rugby team to cheer on to, so let's hope Ireland can lift the 2011 World Cup in rugby.

    I've been celebrating Konoe's victory. I worked with him in 1975 in Geneva. A fine gentlemen that the Movement needs. It was a vote for competence and integrity. Bob

  3. La Honte. I used the word very pretentioulsy in the pub, but very deliberately in the piece.