Soccer fans can get a little wacky about fouls.
CATCH THEM ON a good day, and they’ll not only let you get away with a blatant, violent foul, like Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt, but they’ll name you best player anyway. Catch them on a bad day, and they’ll start calling for your blood.
The second is what’s now happening to Thierry Henry. During a World Cup qualifier against Ireland last week, the French captain committed a handball while setting up a teammate for a goal. Because referee Martin Hansson didn’t see the foul, he had no choice but to allow the goal. As a result, France ended up winning 2-1, and Ireland lost its last chance to qualify for the World Cup.
The press exploded. The Daily Mail said that Henry had “blatantly cheated”, and questioned whether he would ever live down the foul. Former French international Eric Cantona said that he would have punched Henry, had he been on the Irish team.
“If I’d been Irish, he wouldn’t have lasted three seconds,” Cantona said.
‘La Mano de Dios’
At least one player has gotten away with a bigger handball in soccer history. In the 1986 World Cup finals, Diego Maradona scored the game-winning goal that way in a match against England. Because of the foul, Argentina took home the World Cup, and Maradona became a hero. There certainly weren’t any former Argentine players publicly fantasizing about beating him up.
Despite having owned up to his error soon after the game, Henry is catching much more flak. Henry told L’Equipe that the criticism directed at him was so strong that he briefly considered quitting international soccer.
In response to the controversy, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called an emergency meeting for next week, at which it is widely expected that FIFA’s executive committee will recommend a rule change that would add two new assistant referees to the field.
Some officials have gone a step further, arguing that FIFA should introduce video replay to help referees make more accurate calls. Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, said that the technology was key to keeping the game fair.
“I like justice in sport and I believe football has a big responsibility today to see how we want international life to go on and to be an example for people who watch the game,” he said.
Does Thierry Henry deserve what he’s getting? Should soccer refs have access to instant replay? Let us know in the comments.