Belfast Telegraph

Keane dreams of second chance for Republic

Robbie Keane is refusing to accept that his World Cup dream is over - despite FIFA rejecting the Republic of Ireland's call for a replay of their play-off with France.

The Irish skipper has called on the French Football Federation to heed Thierry Henry's acceptance that a replay would be “the fairest solution.”

Henry — who handled the ball in the build-up to William Gallas' decisive goal in Paris — came out yesterday to insist he is not a cheat, but admitted the Irish deserve to be going to South Africa.

Keane said: “On behalf of the Republic of Ireland players, I would like to thank Thierry Henry for his statement that in his opinion a replay would be the fairest option.

“As captain of the French team, to make such a statement took courage and honour and all of us recognise that.

“As captain of the Republic of Ireland team, 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 hope that the French Football Federation might accept the wishes of both captains in the best interests of the game.”

FIFA rejected the Football Association of Ireland's formal request for a replay, saying: “The result of the match cannot be changed and the match cannot be replayed.

“As is clearly mentioned in the laws of the game, during matches, decisions are taken by the referee and these decisions are final.”

Henry said his reaction in handling the ball had been a split-second instinctive reaction.

The French striker 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.

“I feel embarrassed at the way that we won and feel sorry for the Irish who definitely deserve to be in South Africa. The fairest solution would be to replay the game but it is not in my control.”

The FAI were last night pondering their next action — though it looks highly unlikely that they will be able to appeal to FIFA or take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Stephen Townley, a London lawyer who also acts as an arbitrator for CAS, said the Lausanne-based court would not be able to become involved.

Townley said: “Looking at FIFA's statutes, this would come under violation of the laws of the game, in which case CAS could not pick up the dispute.”

Belfast Telegraph


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