The ennui of Henry

Posted: November 19, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Sacre Bleu Thierry, pourquoi?

You garner a reputation as a somewhat pouty character with the prerequisite gallic arrogance afforded to a footballing technician of the highest artistry. You finally bid adieu to the home you have graced for nearly a decade, with the fans’ adoration ringing in your ears to face a brave new challenge under the Spanish sun. All in all, British fans regard you in an esteem reserved for those few who inhabit the highest echelon of ability and good spirit. You are an ambassador for your sport. Hell, you even appear as a representative for football on the stupid Gillette Mach Turbo adverts.

Oh, shouldn’t forget you have a couple of rather prestigious international tournament medals, including World Cup winners and runners up medals, stowed away safely in the cabinet.

To call you a decorated player would be like describing Mahatma Gandhi as a somewhat peaceful soul.

So we arrive at the night of November 18th 2009, and your country is looking to you, as captain, to set an example in steering their sinking ship to the welcoming shores of South Africa. No longer the world force they once were, your country has struggled to make it this far and their slim advantage is overturned. By the final whistle, the side appears crestfallen, while the plucky underdogs have taken the game to you and got their rewards. This is not just a matter of prestige, but a matter of national pride. Your team-mates are debilitated, they look dead on their feet. Even when momentum builds, a white jersey clatters through it. Those green and white minions have squandered numerous gilt-edged opportunities which keeps the game on a knife edge. Frustration builds, and the hubristic notion that you have won a recent World Cup and reached the last final seeps into your mind and allows you to consider the thought that you have a divine right to be in this tournament by whatever means necessary.

Extra time, and the Parisien faithful’s hostility squeezes like a vice. Direct action is necessary. Suddenly, you have a free kick in dangerous territory. A good delivery will see a goalmouth scramble. The ball is delivered perfectly into no man’s land. The linesman has failed to spot an offside in the build-up, but all you are focussed on is making this count. A missed header sees the ball bounce towards the goal-line and into your path. It’s an indomitable angle but perhaps a kind bounce will allow a half-volley. Only, when the ball skips up off the turf, it nudges away off of your left forearm. As cursed luck would have it, this twist of fate is taking the ball out of play faster, and in an instinct your hand reacts to retrieve the lost cause of your World Cup salvation. In the same motion as cushioning the errant ball, you stab it across to your comrade with an open net gaping. He merely has to fall over the ball to apply the finish.

A despicable but instinctive act of cheating performed in the heat of the moment. But what could have happened next?

UEFA Team of the Year: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006

You await a whistle, but instead just adulation and cheering follow. The goal has been awarded. You are on course to qualify. You have revived your whole nation.

FWA Footballer Of The Year: 2002–03, 2003–04, 2005–06

It is a hollow glory. You realise you have broken the most fundamental law of the sport. You know it. Your team-mates know it. The Irish team and officials and fans know it. But the officials are none the wiser.

PFA Team of the Year: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006

The rewards are incredible, and the whole nation adores you. Thousands of fans are singing; inspired by the false goal you have created. Your team-mates are ecstatic. You are going to the greatest show on Earth.

French Player of the Year: 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006

You have committed a cardinal sin. The skill involved was arbitrary because your hand was the tool which made it possible. No Irish player can attain this advantage. You have employed a method out of reach to all other players bound by the rules of the sport.

Confederations Cup top goalscorer: 2003

People from all nations of the World are able to watch this game and this moment, replayed a thousand times and scrutinized in minute detail. Children are inspired by defining moments, moments which win big matches. Moments which decide passage to the greatest tournament in sport.

European Golden Boot: 2004, 2005

There is a chance for redemption. A small window for a reprieve. It takes a big man, a huge man, to step out of the crowd and say to the officials: “I handled. I’m sorry. It is not a goal.”

For one shining moment, you hand the glory back, you deny the good things, to stand up and say this is wrong, and we do not need this injustice to win.

English Football Hall of Fame: 2008

Richard Williams of the Guardian’s online site makes the point superbly. Of course, any of us is human, and would most likely have instinctively performed the same actions, be we possessed of the audacious skill required for the cutback. Henry’s handball can not be defined as cheating.

Allowing the officials to condone the act and take the reward of a goal IS cheating.

And, Thierry, for some of us this detracts from the character we have grown accustomed to from your many incredible Premiership years and Champions League campaigns.

A heavy critic of Barcelona’s supposed diving in the 2006 Champions League Final, you fail to condemn team-mate Nicolas Anelka for a brazen simulation in the Ireland match, and then skulk away from the responsibility of your own crime. Are we to believe you are a hypocrite, or will you claim that the 2006 final made you ‘evolve’ into a more adept player, adding surreptitious cheating to your long list of talents?

Time 100: 2007

So what have we learned about you Thierry? Please tell us in your own words, because to us former devotees, all we seemed to have learned is that

–          cheating is acceptable when the officials do not see it

–          cheating is acceptable because other players do it

–          being an inspiration is second to being a winner

–          winning should be achieved at all costs

–          some rules are more important than others

–          you are not a referee

I hope it was worth it.

Well, you’re at the World Cup.


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