On Thierry Henry’s (Non) Penalty

After deliberating for nearly two months, FIFA announced on Monday that French striker Thierry Henry will not be handed down any disciplinary action for his blatant hand ball that effectively secured France a berth in this summer’s World Cup. As most of you already know, Henry twice extended his left hand to handle the ball down to his feet before passing for William Gallas to head home the winner. Despite Ireland’s entire back line actively protesting, head referee Martin Hansson of Sweden turned a blind eye.
Not surprisingly, the Republic of Ireland launched nothing short of an assault on FIFA demanding justice. But for once, the luck of the Irish took a rain check and nothing came out of their complaints.

Meanwhile, Henry has publicly apologized and admitted his guilt (although denying the offense would have proven difficult, given the superb replay angle capturing the obvious). At the time, he even stated his support for another playoff game as the best possible solution. Unfortunately his good intentions, along with his talented play at Arsenal and Barcelona, could easily be forgotten at water cooler conversations. No, people would rather gossip about and constantly bring up the hand ball.

Even though this decision will go down as highly controversial, FIFA made the right call. As major sports, especially here in the states, adopt instant replay and other technological methods to help perfect the officiating, I question why? As a kid, I loved participating in pickup games around the neighborhood where we had the most fun calling our own fouls and just messing around. When NFL referees trot to the sidelines and squint into a replay booth or when baseball umps have an eight minute conference on the mound, I cringe. Close or notorious calls should continue to be a major part of sports. Matches with controversial conclusions almost have a magical tendency that we all secretly crave; it’s a way in which we could always ponder: What If?

But in a more formal note and as stated in the rules, “There is no other legal text that would allow the committee to impose sanctions for any incidents missed by match officials.”  If the foul would have been caught by Hansson during the run of play, he would have been issued a straight red and sent off. But he didn’t. The wrongdoing went unnoticed. It was unfortunate to happen in such an important game, but it happens.

I do, however, believe the FIFA needs to perceive this mess as a warning for the future. Other recent officiating blunders come to mind throughout all major soccer leagues, including the rouge balloon that deflated Liverpool in the EPL.

The real loser here is Gillete.

Henry’s handball. Tiger Wood’s promiscuous and adulterous lifestyle. Roger Federer off his game.

Ouch.

Tim Patterson is a staff writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at tpatters@tulane.edu.

Filed Under: January 2010

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