21 November 2009
A belated apology from Thierry Henry
Better late than never some may say (although perhaps better he owned up to his handball at the time) but Thierry Henry has apologised for his handball during the World Cup playoff between France and the Republic of Ireland.
According to a report in today’s Guardian he now believes a replay would be the "fairest solution" to the continuing furore over the handball which led to the goal that eliminated Ireland from World Cup qualification, and said Ireland "deserve to be in South Africa".
"Naturally I feel embarrassed at the way that we won and feel extremely sorry for the Irish who definitely deserve to be in South Africa," said Henry in a statement today. "Of course the fairest solution would be to replay the game but it is not in my control."
Henry handled the ball twice immediately before passing to team-mate William Gallas to score his side's decisive goal in the 1-1 draw on Wednesday, but referee Martin Hansson still allowed it despite vehement protests from the Ireland players.
In a statement he said: "I have said at the time and I will say again that yes I handled the ball. I am not a cheat and never have been. It was an instinctive reaction to a ball that was coming extremely fast in a crowded penalty area.
"It is impossible to be anything other than that. I have never denied that the ball was controlled with my hand. I told the Irish players, the referee and the media this after the game. Naturally I feel embarrassed at the way that we won and feel extremely sorry for the Irish who definitely deserve to be in South Africa. There is little more I can do apart from admit that the ball had contact with my hand leading up to our equalising goal and I feel very sorry for the Irish."
Fifa have already turned down an Irish request for a replay of the match. Unsurprisingly the French have rejected any appeal.
Ireland's captain, Robbie Keane, said: "On behalf of the Republic of Ireland players, I would like to thank Thierry Henry for his statement this afternoon that in his opinion a replay would be the fairest option. I would also be happy for a replay to happen in the interest of fair play so that whichever team qualifies, can do so with their heads held high. We can only hope that the French Football Federation might accept the wishes of both captains in the best interests of the game."
Fat chance Robbie! The French are not going to throw away the millions they will earn from qualifying for the finals no matter how unfair it was. As for Henry, his apology is a little hollow given that he didn’t exactly pipe up at the time.
But then football is a funny old game. Shame nobody is laughing much...