Wednesday 18 January 2017

How we reacted to infamous Henry handball in 2009: 'It felt shocking that a country’s dream could perish so fraudulently'

Published 05/06/2015 | 09:50

The Irish Independent front page from November 19th 2009
The Irish Independent front page from November 19th 2009
The Irish Independent front page from November 20th 2009
The front page of the Herald from November 19th 2009
The front page of the Herald from November 20th 2009

AS the infamous Thierry Henry handball comes back to the fore, we take a look back at how our writers reacted in November 2009.

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Daniel McDonnell (19/11/2009):

A nation wakes this morning trying in vain to avoid the paranoia and anger felt by Giovanni Trapattoni and his players as they departed the Stade de France last night.

They had attempted to leave those feelings aside before this World Cup play-off with France after FIFA's shameful decision to move the goalposts meant Ireland would have to encounter a global heavyweight to achieve their South African dream.

The Irish Independent front page from November 20th 2009
The Irish Independent front page from November 20th 2009

Alas, the goal which booked France's ticket not only brought back those feelings of injustice, but multiplied them a thousand times over. They were cheated in extra-time after the best 90- minute performance from an Irish team in many years to bring this play-off all the way. With better finishing, they could have wrapped it up beforehand.

Massive injustice for boys in green as ref howler sends French to South Africa

The Irish Independent front page from November 19th 2009
The Irish Independent front page from November 19th 2009

 

Vincent Hogan (19/11/2009):

It felt shocking that a country’s dream could perish so fraudulently. Short of tucking the ball up his jersey, Thierry Henry couldn’t have been more openly tactile in possession before flicking to William Gallas for the kill shot.

In rugby, a TV umpire would have saved us. But FIFA doesn’t go that road and, for that, they will be truly thankful. Today in Paris, the French Federation will unveil their World Cup jersey. Big business works on smart gambling.

Giovanni Trapattoni watched it slip away, hands in pockets, the wisdom of his years planting a philosophical expression where you could have forgiven horror. The fireworks erupted and Richard Dunne sat on the turf, chatting to Henry as if the stadium might be a riverbank, the fish slow to bite.

Vincent Hogan: Thierry the thief steals our dream

The front page of the Herald from November 19th 2009
The front page of the Herald from November 19th 2009

 

Ian O'Doherty (20/11/2009):

Eighteen months ago, the talk was of how much your house was worth; these days the talk is about how much your house has lost and, as a result, we have frankly become a nation of bores.

But Wednesday? Wednesday was different.

The front page of the Herald from November 20th 2009
The front page of the Herald from November 20th 2009

We might feel on a conceptual level that we have been cheated by bankers, builders and bastards, but it's hard to even get your head around the figures involved -- do you become twice as freaked when the national debt goes from €1bn a month to €2bn?

The scale of our current misfortune is simply so vast that it's like looking at the electronic 'debt countdown' in Times Square, which features an ever increasing number of digits as America slides further into the red -- the figures are simply incomprehensible.

But the other night? Now that's something else entirely.

Because here we saw no dodgy backroom deal; no secret consultation between the masters of business who decide our fate -- here we saw, live, direct and in appalling clarity, Ireland being cheated out of something it had so heroically earned.

With the nation expecting a repeat of the limp second-half performance in Croke Park on Saturday, we were instead offered one of the proudest, most defiant displays from this honest but painfully limited bunch of players that genuinely made the heart soar.

Ian O'Doherty: We've been cheated by builders and bankers, but this was something else  

 

Colin Gleeson (20/11/2009):

The extent of the animosity towards the twice-nominated World Player of the Year has been ferocious, with sports commentators labelling him "a cheat" and "a thief".

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni said yesterday that it was a bad day for the "integrity and credibility" of football.

When asked about the whereabouts of morality in the sport -- with one of the game's biggest ambassadors failing to own up to such deceit on the world stage -- he said that "the world would be a better place if everybody thought like that".

The incident has been placed on a par with Diego Maradona's infamous moment of madness when his 'hand of God' punched the ball into the net and helped send England home from the World Cup in 1986.

And if Henry thought he might get some respite in his home country from the barrage of abuse that has been aimed at him from all over the world -- he should have thought twice.

Even the French media have lambasted their side's captain, with France's biggest-selling national sports newspaper 'L'Equipe' splashing with the line 'La Main de Dieu' meaning 'Hand of God' on its front page.

Pillar of the game is reduced to a figure of ridicule

 

Dion Fanning (22/11/2009):

Sepp Blatter, who is recovering from an operation which forced -- or allowed -- him to remain silent, would, the FAI felt, have been delighted to demonstrate the notion of fair play if the French had agreed.

"It would have been the biggest game of football the world has ever seen," one FAI source said, perhaps getting a little carried away, although the story has been the talking point across the world since Wednesday night.

He would then have been able to demonstrate that he was not against Ireland, a small country which was showing the loudness of its voice and the size of its Diaspora in ensuring this story remained news.

"I would like to know what have I done to Blatter?" Trapattoni asked. "If he explains it to me at least I would be calm. I often go to schools and speak of fair play. Perhaps I am a dreamer. FIFA has violated the rules imposing top-seeded teams in the play-offs. It's treachery."

Ireland, at least, could take some consolation that the team had not betrayed them. Trapattoni had restored the unity of the public and the players. The Irish people had watched in record numbers and seen the team give so much in what was probably the finest away performance since Ireland drew with England at Wembley in 1991.

On that night, Ireland missed the chances to record maybe their most famous victory. Instead they had only a draw which would ultimately deny Jack Charlton's strongest squad a place in the 1992 European Championships.

Hand of fate a unifying force for Ireland  

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