Thierry Henry, vilified and mocked in equal measure since the Hand of Henry incident Wednesday, says he wants France’s playoff against Ireland to be replayed. It won’t happen, though.
Henry set up the extra time winner in the second leg by twice controlling the ball with his hand then passing it to William Gallas, who made no mistake from close range. France made it 1-1 at the Stade de France and progressed to the World Cup 2-1 on aggregate.
“I am not a cheat and never have been,” Henry said in a statement Friday. “It was an instinctive reaction to a ball that was coming extremely fast in a crowded penalty area.
“As a footballer you do not have the luxury of the television to slow the pace of the ball down 100 times to be able to make a conscious decision. People are viewing a slow motion version of what happened and not what I or any other footballer faces in the game.
“If people look at it in full speed you will see that it was an instinctive reaction. 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. Of course the fairest solution would be to replay the game, but it is not in my control.
“There is little more I can do apart from admit that the ball had contact with my hand leading up to our equalizing goal and I feel very sorry for the Irish.”
On Thursday, FIFA hinted the game couldn’t be replayed, and the governing body issued a statement of their own Friday saying as much. Ireland’s football association made an official request for a replay.
“In the reply, FIFA states that the result of the match cannot be changed and the match cannot be replayed,” FIFA began. “As is clearly mentioned in the Laws of the Game, during matches, decisions are taken by the referee and these decisions are final.”
Meanwhile, former players and politicians in France continue to express shame about Henry’s gaffe.
“I’m very embarrassed by the situation,” ex French international and Tottenham winger David Ginola said. “I don’t feel very proud to be French this morning. The Irish played very well and they deserved to go through as much as France, maybe more. This is a pure injustice. Everyone in France says there should be a replay.”