Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ref Hands Thierry Henry A Goal and France a World Cup Berth

by Dick Mac

In soccer, it is against the rules for any player besides the goalkeeper to handle the ball. If a player intentionally handles the ball, they can receive a yellow caution card. If the infraction takes place in the box, the opposition is awarded a penalty shot.

Although a penalty shot is not a guaranteed goal, the odds are very much in the favor of the kicker, and goals are more-often-than-not the result of a penalty kick.

Professional soccer matches are officiated by one referee on the field, and one on each sideline, monitoring both sides of one end of the field of play. A fourth official is at midfield acting as a sort of administrator.

A soccer pitch, even a small soccer pitch, is a huge playing field, and a single official is hard-pressed to officiate a good match. The governing bodies of soccer do not want to introduce video replays to assist referees making calls. The referee is allowed to confer with the other officials, and this often leads to calls being corrected. An official, however, is not required to confer with his or her colleagues in a controversial situation.

France played Ireland yesterday in the second leg of their World Cup Qualifying match-up. The winner of the two match (combined score) series would be invited to South Africa next year for the 2010 World Cup.

Ireland played hard, and according to many accounts was the superior team.

I was unable to see the match, but have viewed videos like the one below.

In extra time, Thierry Henry handled the ball in the box, preventing it from going out-of-bounds, and passing it to William Gallas who stood in front of the goal and headed it in for the winning goal. The goal should have been disallowed and Ireland should be going to South Africa next year.

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.
- Thierry Henry

Ireland defender, Richard Dunne said:
Henry admitted afterwards he handled it, but it doesn't make me feel any better. We were cheated.

Thierry Henry is my all-time favorite player. He is an amazing athlete who is not known for cheating or unfair play. It is disheartening that he has made his way to the center of this controversy and to see that his entire career will be over-shadowed by this single event.

Damien Duff Interview

FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, needs to take serious steps to improving the officiating of matches. The official should have discussed the goal with the linesman, and he did not. There should be some mechanism in place that forces the ref to confer with other officials.

Then, the sport needs to implement video replays, even if only for goals, and even if only for the World Cup and its qualifying matches.

This particular incident compromises the integrity of the World Cup qualifying process and the competition itself. If France wins (unlikely as it is), this will be a World Cup with an asterisk.

Perhaps Damien Duff was correct: "FIFA wanted to see France in the World Cup, and not Ireland."

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