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Euro 2016

The French view on Henry's handball: 'People see the big picture now'

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FOOTBALL The dastardy Thierry Henry caught mid-cheat as he puts Ireland out of the World Cup

Image credit: AFP

ByMaxime Dupuis
26/06/2016 at 07:21 | Updated 26/06/2016 at 08:22
@maximedupuis

It's Ireland v France in Paris in the last 16 of Euro 2016, and inevitably the focus has been trained on an infamous moment between the two countries in the same city seven years ago.

It was the night that Thierry Henry knocked Ireland out of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup with one of the most controversial moments in football history.

After asking Miguel Delaney for the Irish perspective on that night in Paris, we thought we'd also take in the French point of view.

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Maxime Dupuis, from our French office, takes up the story...


"At first sight I did not know what had happened. But when you watch football for a long time you know when something weird has happened. It was hard to say what, but the way Henry took the ball was strange. My first reaction, like a lot of journalists, was to go down to the media tribune un the stand because on the front row there are some televisions so I went to see what had happened - and I saw that he had handballed it.

"What was weird at this time was that after the goal there was a strange mood in the stadium because at this moment of the French story the team was not popular. The coach, Raymond Domenech, was not popular. If it had happened 12 years before with the Zidane team there would not have been the same reaction.

"Furthermore, everybody felt they were going to qualify against the Irish, who were a good team and a nice team. So it was a strange feeling to go through like this. It wouldn’t have been the same reaction if the team they were playing were Italy or Germany – a big team. Everybody in the media tribune saw it was unfair and that the Irish team did not deserve what was happening to them.

"In the game, the French team had been really afraid. They had won 1-0 in Ireland but four days later they had nothing. Hugo Lloris was good but apart from that we were awful. It was not a popular team.

"We knew it was going to be a big controversy only the day after, because I remember we went to the mixed zone right after the game and Thierry Henry had come to explain himself. He said, ‘okay I made a handball but I am not the referee. I am sorry for that’. Everything like this. But the day after it was crazy. It was the first really big viral story because Twitter and Facebook were strong. Because it was France, because it was this team, because it was Domenech and because it was Ireland. It was so unfair on them.

"Two days after, when FIFA said it was not possible to replay the game, we had a statement from Thierry Henry when he was asking to replay it. I think it was a political statement, a PR move. Thierry Henry is a very intelligent man – he knew what he was doing.

Henry, Dunne after France - Ireland

Image credit: AFP

"We remember when Henry went to sit next to Richard Dunne after the final whistle. That was part of the story in France. It’s hard to say if he was sincere or it was manufactured: it’s Thierry Henry. It’s hard when you see a guy almost crying on the floor and you know you qualified from a handball. I think it was sincere but it also created a good image. But it was certainly a big part of the story.

"At the time, the French federation was not really supporting Henry, even though he was the captain. He felt a bit alone and what was weird is that everybody talked about it: even Christine Lagarde, the French minister of finance. Everybody was on his back and it was really hard for him. It was maybe the worst moment of his career.

"But to be honest, this incident isn’t prominent when we talk about Thierry Henry’s legacy any more. People see the big picture: 51 goals in 123 caps for the national side. He is one of the great players of his generation and there is a little black mark on his resume but I think today it has been almost forgotten.

"When you play football this kind of thing can happen. Except Robbie Fowler, who said one day that there was no penalty, we have never seen a footballer admitting they made a handball. Maybe it’s awful, maybe it’s not moral, but it’s in the game."

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