LATE APOL­OGY

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FIFA yes­ter­day re­jected Ire­land’s re­quest to re­play their World Cup qual­i­fier against France, but Thierry Henry said a re­match would be “the fairest so­lu­tion” to re­solve the furore over his ex­tra-time hand ball that set up the de­cid­ing goal.

Turn­ing down an ap­peal by the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of Ire­land as well as pres­sure from law­mak­ers and foot­ball fig­ures in both coun­tries, Fifa said it could not in­ter­fere and the ref­eree’s de­ci­sion to al­low the goal stands.

“The re­sult of the match can­not be changed and the match can­not be re­played,” Fifa said in a state­ment.

“As is clearly men­tioned in the Laws of the Game, dur­ing matches, de­ci­sions are taken by the ref­eree and th­ese de­ci­sions are fi­nal.”

Henry used his left hand to keep the ball from go­ing out of play, then passed to William Gal­las, who headed in the decisive goal.

At the time of Henry’s hand­ball, which went un­pun­ished by Swedish ref­eree Martin Hans­son de­spite fer­vent ap­peals by Ire­land play­ers, the match was 17 min­utes from reach­ing a penalty shootout.

The 1-1 draw at Stade de France put the French through to next year’s World Cup in South Africa 2-1 on ag­gre­gate.

Henry was ju­bi­lant in his goal cel­e­bra­tions but was more sub­dued at the end of the match and ad­mit­ted to han­dling the ball.

The France cap­tain said af­ter the game that the ref­eree was at fault for not spot­ting the of­fence but waited un­til af­ter Fifa’s rul­ing to ac­knowl­edge the pos­si­bil­ity of a re­play.

“Of course the fairest so­lu­tion would be to re­play the game but it is not in my con­trol,” Henry said. “Nat­u­rally I feel em­bar­rassed at the way that we won and feel ex­tremely sorry for the Ir­ish, who def­i­nitely de­serve to be in South Africa.

“There is lit­tle more I can do apart from ad­mit that the ball had con­tact with my hand lead­ing up to our goal and I feel very sorry for the Ir­ish.”

Henry again de­nied de­lib­er­ately han­dling the ball, al­though tele­vi­sion re­plays sug­gested he slapped the ball once to stop it go­ing out of play and again to set up the pass to Gal­las.

Ir­ish cap­tain Rob­bie Keane, said: “As cap­tain of the French team, to make such a state­ment took courage and hon­our, and all of us recog­nise that.

Many in France have urged Fifa to sanc­tion a re­play, cast­ing the in­ci­dent as a na­tional em­bar­rass­ment.

Fran­cois Bay­rou, leader of France’s third big­gest po­lit­i­cal party, Mo­dem, said that the match should ideally be re­played, while gover nment Fi­nance Min­is­ter Chris­tine La­garde said she felt “very sad” that the na­tional team had qual­i­fied for the World Cup by “cheat­ing.”

But in Dublin, the FAI said it re­ceived Fifa’s re­ply re­ject­ing a re­play. The FAI said its man­age­ment board would meet to con­sider the mat­ter.

Mean­while Sir Alex Fer­gu­son and Arsene Wenger joined forces yes­ter­day to call for video tech­nol­ogy to be used to avoid con­tro­ver­sies like the one that has marred France’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the World Cup.

Fer­gu­son sup­ports change but the Scot fears that all dis­cus­sion on the is­sue is fu­tile be­cause FIFA, are sim­ply not in­ter­ested in rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the role of the ref­eree.

He said: “The stance is that they pre­fer hu­man de­ci­sion­mak­ing rather than tech­nol­ogy de­ci­sion-mak­ing and un­til they change their mind there is noth­ing you can do about it – you have to con­vince them, no­body else.

“It is not a mat­ter of ask­ing ev­ery player and man­ager in the world their opin­ion be­cause they will all share the same one, as I do my­self, that tech­nol­ogy can play a part and can help ref­er­ees in a sit­u­a­tion like the other night.”

Mean­while Ire­land have been left count­ing the cost of some ex­treme mis­for­tune.

Fer­gu­son added: “My thoughts were with (Ire­land coach) Gio­vanni Tra­p­at­toni. He pre­pared a team that put in an ab­so­lutely mag­nif­i­cent per­for­mance. You couldn’t ask for bet­ter from a coach but it was taken away from him.

“It hap­pens and it’s de­nied a cou­ple of our play­ers the great ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in the World Cup fi­nals and you’ll never get a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence than that.”

Fer­gu­son’s call for the in­tro­duc­tion of tech­no­log­i­cal sup­port for match of­fi­cials was backed by Arse­nal boss Wenger, who ar­gued that mis­takes like the one in­volv­ing Henry could no longer be ac­cepted given the stakes in­volved.

“Foot­ball ac­cepts that a bil­lion peo­ple see it, one guy doesn’t see it and it is the one who pre­vails. It can­not work,” Wenger said. “We can­not ac­cept that an ob­vi­ous de­ci­sion is wrong be­cause we do not want to give our­selves all the needed help we can have in the mod­ern game.

“Be­ing at the game, I saw the ref­eree giv­ing a goal know­ing that some­thing was wrong and that is re­ally sad. He didn’t see it, I can un­der­stand, the lines­man didn’t see it, but they couldn’t get any help.

“In the end, he gave a goal, al­ready know­ing that it wasn’t a goal. We can­not ac­cept that in our sport and you have to do some­thing about it.”

Wenger also ad­mit­ted to feel­ing a lit­tle ‘em­bar­rassed’ by the na­ture of France’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

“For the sense of jus­tice it is quite em­bar­rass­ing to see,” he said. “I think even France is em­bar­rassed. We didn’t play well at all and we won the game and won the qual­i­fi­ca­tion with a goal that was not a goal.” – Sapa-AFP.

AP PHOTO

WORDS CAN’T DE­SCRIBE: Thierry Henry drives his car past a poster erected by an Ir­ish news­pa­per af­ter a train­ing ses­sion in San Joan De­spi in Spain yes­ter­day. Henry, the cap­tain of France, apol­o­gised for his hand­ball which elim­i­nated Ire­land from the World Cup.

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