Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Va va gloom for ‘cheat’ Thierry Henry as his reputation is left in tatters

Thierry Henry controls the ball with his hand during the build up to France's goal in Paris
Thierry Henry controls the ball with his hand during the build up to France's goal in Paris
France captain Thierry Henry controls the ball with his hand during the build up to the controversial goal in Paris

From chic to cheat -- Thierry Henry's reputation has been all but ruined by the infamous handball that cost the Republic a place in the World Cup.

The millionaire French football star still enjoys support from the corporate giant that pays him big money to promote its products.

However, his self-confessed handball will sully both the rest of his career and his country's World Cup campaign next year in South Africa.

The cheating incident that set up the decisive goal in Wednesday night's match with the Irish has led to calls for a replay.

They appear to be doomed with a Fifa source predictably indicating that the result will stand.

The row is even taking on political and diplomatic features with Taoiseach Brian Cowen pledging to raise it with French president Nicolas Sarkozy at a European summit.

Supporting the replay demand, Mr Cowen said: “I think that fair play is a fundamental part of the game.”

Admitting that he handled the ball — a fact already clearly evident to millions of TV viewers, Henry said: “I will be honest, it was a handball. But I'm not the ref. I played it, the ref allowed it. That's a question you should ask him.”

The striker is one of the superstar faces of Gillette and a spokesman for the company said: “Gillette are not placed to comment on any refereeing decisions made in the match or any refereeing at all for that matter. This is not going to affect our relationship with Thierry Henry.”

The handball has caused embarrassment in the player's home country.

Over 200 people yesterday commented on the controversy on the Belfast Telegraph's website including a number of French people who took the online opportunity to apologise.

One said: “Hello, I'm French and today I am ashamed and there are a lot of people in France who are ashamed.”

Another stated: “Hi, as a French ex-pat who used to live in Dublin for a year, I’m truly sorry and really ashamed we won this way.”

The handball has also caused distress among diehard Arsenal fans in this part of the world.

Henry was a legend for the north London side prior to his move to Spanish giants Barcelona.

Frank Quinn of Armagh Arsenal Supporters Club said he felt “very disappointed”.

“It was very bad sportsmanship. I understand why he did it but I would not have shaken his hand afterwards if I was one of the Irish players,” he said.

“People are feeling very strongly about this and it will certainly be a focal point at our next meeting.”

Chairman of the Banbridge Arsenal Supporters Club Michael O’Kane said he felt Henry’s behaviour set a bad example to young people.

Mr O’Kane, who coaches children at under 17 level, said: “Unfortunately this sort of thing is part and parcel of football today.

“There is so much money involved in these big matches so players have a win at all cost mentality.”

My View

By David Gordon

Thierry Henry was idolised as one of the finest players ever to grace the game.

He had style, off the pitch as well as on, plus a Va Va Voom image that was highly marketable.

But now he will look in the mirror every day at a cheat, and at someone who is most likely to be remembered first and foremost for his cheating.

That's a great pity, because Henry was undoubtedly one of the best footballers of his generation.

He also seemed like a genuinely likeable and cool guy.

In truth, though, his form has been on the slide since his peak at Arsenal.

Both he and France are not the forces they once were.

More charitable observers believe Henry looked a bit sheepish and guilty after the goal and following the final whistle.

That doesn't take away from the fact that he handled the ball — twice to be precise — and celebrated afterwards.

There will doubtless be increasingly heartfelt apologies over the next few days.

If he was a disgraced Hollywood actor, he would be arranging a tearful apology on Oprah Winfrey's sofa.

The contrition may well be genuine.

It's also good for business.

Advertisers don't tend to like scandal.

Cheating your way to the World Cup finals is not “the best a man can get”.

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