Thursday, November 19, 2009

The legacy of Thierry Henry

Every red blooded male has the fantasy. No, not that fantasy, behave! One where they score a crucial goal for their country of birth. That’s just one of the reasons soccer is the global game, whether the American sporting media likes it or not (credit where credit is due, they are slowly, ever so slowly copping on). All over the world, from Dublin to Dubai, from Cork to Copenhagen, boys score brilliant goals on fields, streets and in back alleys, embellishing their moment with lusty fantasies of that goal actually pushing Ireland, Saudi Arabia or Denmark to the World Cup Finals. It can be a screaming shot, nestling in the top right hand corner of the net. A brilliant header from a great cross, powering past the keeper, or a cheeky back heel. Whatever way the goal came about, much celebration and adulation would surely follow.

Let’s just say, as a young lad in France, that is decidedly not how Thierry Henry drew it up. In his wildest fantasies of driving France to a World Cup, he never, ever imagined a scenario where he would basically illegally push the ball back in play with his hand, handle it again to position it, and then cross for the winning goal in a crucial World Cup qualifier.

Dublin, Cork or Galway have all been crossed off the Henry’s travel plans for the near future. He is persona-non grata on the Emerald Isle.

Here’s the kicker. You have to wonder, will Henry come to regret his action, or, non-action, for the rest of his life? Non-action? Absolutely, he could have acted in a way in which many who have followed him for years in the English Premiership would not have been too shocked.

If you have enjoyed Henry’s brilliant play and crucial goals (oh, that stunning beauty against Manchester United!) and his apparent honesty and class, can’t you see the following?

Can’t you see him handle the ball (twice), cross for the goal, only to suddenly turn, waving his hands, his face a stern moment of recognition of fault? Can’t you see him approach the referee and put a hand on his shoulder, and gently explain that he couldn’t help himself handling the ball, however the goal should be disallowed. Much like the goal, it’s not the stuff of fantasy, is it? You can actually see the above happening, because of the player himself, and his perceived character.

Instead, Henry is left with, well, what, exactly? Sure, crucial ‘goal’, certainly. However, what next?

Diego Maradona. How do you remember him? If you are English, you remember him for the ‘Hand of God’. Look how things ended up for him. Does he look happy? Not so much. Sure, he is managing Argentina for the moment, however he is making more enemies than friends, and can you forget the Elvis like decline in the nineties?

How will last nights cheating incident affect the legacy of Thierry Henry? Let’s call a spade a spade here, Henry cheated, badly, and his cheating had a rather dramatic effect on the outcome of the World Cup qualifier.

For my money, this will not sit well with the French man. He has already come out and admitted he cheated.

The Barcelona striker said:
"The ball hit my hand, I will be honest. It was a handball, you can clearly see it. [Sébastien] Squillaci went to jump with two Irish players, I was behind him and the next thing I know the ball hit my hand. It was a handball, but I'm not the ref. I told [the referee] but he said to me the same: 'You are not the ref.'"

Watching sports you tend to a get a feel for players, possibly completely erroneous, however you definitely create a short list in your head of players you would imagine double as decent chaps. Niall Quinn, former Ireland and Sunderland player, clearly a pretty decent fella. Didier Drogba, same again (don’t laugh, check out his incredible charity work in the Ivory Coast for a quick re-shaping of your opinion on him!). I never, ever thought I would say this but, Peyton Manning? Kinda strikes you as a good guy, no? Personally, prior to last night, I would have had Thierry Henry firmly entrenched in that group.

Once the buzz has worn off, once the celebratory hangover has faded, Henry will be left with the fact that one of the greatest movements of his career will be based on a lie. He cheated, and hundreds of millions of soccer fans around the world will, this morning, alter their opinion on the lad. ‘Henry, oh, great player in the nineties, but, ultimately, a cheat.’

Of course, for millions of Manchester United fans, last night only confirmed what they already knew.

As the Stretford end chant goes, ‘’same old Arsenal, always cheating.’’

At least we will always have Robbie Keane's wonder goal.



Dave said...

FIFA could also step up, disallow the goal, and make them replay the game on a neutral field. If Henry could step up and do the right thing based on his character...oh wait, nevermind, FIFA wouldn't do that.

Lorcan said...

Hi Mac,

What more do you expect from Henry? He told the official he handled the ball! He admitted it again to the media after the game. Maybe he can play his next match in a hairshirt or something.

Henry is not a cheat, he is simply a player who committed an infraction which was not properly called. If a player in American Football jumps offside and sacks the QB, but the offsides is not called, is that cheating? Of course not - it's just a missed call. Penalties and infractions happen all the time - it is incumbent on the officials, and on a higher level the governing body, to ensure that the rules are enforced properly.

I know that if Ireland won in this way we would be very disappointed, just as the French fans and media seem to be.

On a side note, I did notice Robbie Keane arguing a hand ball which clearly hit his arm - granted, it did not lead to a goal, but it was not exactly honest or honorable.

On another unrelated side note, baseball players are constantly trying to deceive umpires. A catcher frames a pitch for one reason only - to make a borderline pitch appear like a strike for the umpire. How is this different from a player in soccer falling down to make borderline or minimal contact appear like a penalty? Pure deception (or at least manipulation), yet in baseball this as viewed as shrewd, honorable, fair and completely acceptable. Framing pitches must be banned!

OK, now I'm rambling. Adios.


Cormac said...

Lorcan, with all due respect, I don't think you understand the gravity of the incident. Framing pitches is not on the same level with handling a ball back into play to score the clinching goal in a World Cup qualifier. It is the single biggest incident of cheating in soccer dating back to 1986 and the famous Maradona incident.

Lorcan said...

I was not comparing this incident to framing pitches. It was a digression which was only tangentially related. I probably should have left it for another email.

My point is that Henry is not a villain or a cheat. He simply broke a rule. These things happen all the time, and I think it is unrealistic to expect that infractions will not happen in crucial moments. He admitted his fault to the referee and to the media. What more do you expect?
I'm not convinced that any member of the Irish team would have done as much.

Cormac said...

''These things happen all the time''

Categorically incorrect.
The reason this has made headline news all over the world, even in the States (!) is this is a unique and very dramatic incident.

'These things' happen once in a life time, actually

VEGAS said...

Ladies, I´ve have to say ... I agree with Mac Daddy on this one. I watched Henry run toward the crowd celebrating immediately after this goal. Had he actually approached the ref immediately to say something, I might give an ounce of credibility to all his post game comments but his celebration trot amongst the supporters showed he never gave it a second thought .. disgrace!!

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