Thierry Henry handled the ball. We all know that. The rules state that you cannot do that. If you do do that, there are punishments to be handed down. Those punishments are also in the rules. Others are saying, basically, “What boggles the mind is that there are people who are disputing whether or not he handled the ball” but I’m just going to throw this out there: I’ve seen no one make that claim. Not even Thierry Henry.
Whatever you previously thought of Thierry Henry and whatever you think of him now, it’s fairly obvious that he’ll be ridiculed for a while and no doubt reviled in Ireland. I hope he’s already visited there because I don’t see him getting a visa now. The thing is, holding it against him personally is pretty silly. Do you hold Maradona’s Hand of God goal against him, treating him as a “cheat” instead of a visionary player? Sure, he sucks as a coach, but it’s doubtful anyone really holds that handball against him some 20 years on. Maybe a couple of people in England, but really, who cares at this point?
The sum of a career subtracted by one action does not make a person a miserable git–that’s a perfectly fine reaction in the immediate aftermath when you’re cursing at your TV, but let’s not get carried away with thinking that Henry is a cheat of miserable cheater proportions. He’s not doping and he’s not killing baby seals in the off season. Actually, I don’t know those two things to be true for certain, but I’m guessing he doesn’t do those things. If you still say that he’s a Cheater McCheaterston, fine, you’re right, he cheated. So did Lionel Messi against Espanyol. In fact, both Messi and Maradona celebrated their goals quite exuberantly despite knowing that they had been scored through cheating, so acting as if Henry shouldn’t have been excited to, you know, be going to the World Cup is absurd unless you pillory both those little Argies as well.
Don’t get me wrong here: I was rooting against France because I think French football is stodgy, boring, and badly managed and while the Irish aren’t exactly the flashy wunderkids of the world, they’d have been a welcome addition to the World Cup, especially in place of a team that had to cheat to get the best of them. But that doesn’t make Henry a vile, horrible, no-good bad guy.
There are people calling for France’s dismissal from the World Cup because of this, claiming it should be Ireland going instead. That won’t happen for several reasons, not the least of which is because it opens a Pandora’s Box of retrospective looks on the sport. But one suggestion that I think is pretty great comes from my friend and reader/commenter inNYC: ban Henry from the World Cup. Let France stay and keep Henry out of it while also fining the player the amount of money he would have made were he playing in the WC. That, to me, is perfect.
You see, I in no way condone cheating (I’m a huge anti-Crynaldo guy, after all, because he’s a, um, cheating miserable git) so I think you should be punished when you do it. I’m a firm believer that I would have done the same thing in Henry’s position and I’m a firm believer that everyone else would have–and a firm believer that there’s no merit in the argument that “others haven’t done it” because, um, others have done it. But I’m also a firm believer that those who do such things–myself included–should be punished for those actions because it breaks the rules. That’s why I’m in favor of going back after matches and banning players who dive.
I’m not against opposing fans displaying signs that call Henry a cheater for the next couple of weeks, but what I am against is anyone using this to belittle him as a person. He’s a human being deserving of our sympathies and forgiveness just as much as anyone else. Perhaps the fame and fortune he has earned by being really good at kicking an inflated sheep’s bladder across a meadow has made him impervious to these types of thoughts, but that’s where the ban and the fine come in.
And so you don’t think I’m coddling Señor Messi, he should have been banned for a match after the Espanyol match and fined that match’s pay. How is it that the NFL has a better handle on this sort of thing than anyone else? A $250,000 fine for flipping some opposing fans the bird*? Why can’t FIFA step up and make an example out of Henry and still let France in (like they obviously wanted in the first place).
I also don’t live in some bubble world where I don’t read other writers, so here’s a link dump that you can wade through and judge for yourself if I’m making the right suggestion (I am, after all, dismissing the idea of a replay outright) or if I’m just some sort of thoughtless moron who can’t see the light of day on how Henry is a Tooly von Toolerburg and should be banned from life by being weighted down with concrete and dropped into the piranha-infested Amazon while covered in bacon.
- Richard Whittall goes to town on the “do nothing whatsoever” crowd.
- The ever-loquacious Fredorrarci comes at you with a reminder to keep it sane. And I mean loquacious in the positive aspects of talkative, by the way. Much like I like to think of myself. See, I’m at it again.
- A fairly overly-self-entitled piece by Richard Williams in The Guardian makes me want to wretch a little because of the examples of “real men” he gives, but it’s well worth the read for the non-bile-in-your-mouth-inducing parts.
- Chris comes up with a couple of worthy thoughts on video replay.
- And leave it to James Richardson and company to make some puns out of the whole situation (and what’s up with the Irish Justice minister? Sounds like a real winner!).
- And no, I don’t know why I linked just the names and not more relevant parts of the sentences, but it’s my blog and I can do what I want. Like link this. [Updated with an actual link!]
- [Update: I didn’t realize Kevin was writing similar piece, but here’s the link and all that.]
*Favorite part of the video: “Who was that!?” That’s how well known one of only 2 original owners in the league is. Interestingly, the other original owner is that of the team he’s flipping off. Awesome.