I will be brief, as there is already too much out there on this topic, and that is part of the problem. Thierry Henry committed a foul in a football game. In the game against Ireland he did not get caught for performance enhancing drugs, he did not go cleats up into a tackle, he did not head butt an opponent, he did not taunt an opponent or official with expletives, he did not premeditate any illegal action, and he did not dive. Henry made an illegal play. He admits that. However, it is utterly ridiculous that people mention his act in the same breath as pre-meditated doping, or intent to injure actions. A game moves so fast, you react so fast, he stuck his hand out, he did not go into that play thinking “I will hand this ball”.
The bigger issue: it has exposed to everyone that we take sport far too seriously. Apparently FIFA is considering suspending Henry for at least a portion of the World Cup, when the correct thing to do would have been to replay the game. But then again, they can’t do that, because that sets a precedent that could get out of control, and they want to maintain a facade of control over something they have purposefully let get beyond them: the fact the spectacle of sport at this level is somehow larger than life. It is just a game. 22 men chasing a ball around a park.
Sport in life is important, it can bring joy, exercise, camaraderie, and give us role models. Yet, it is not important enough to take politicians, journalists, and our thoughts away from what really matters when we get a bit disgruntled, when we want to blow something out of proportion. It is not so important that the character of Henry needs to be stamped upon. He is simply a man, who had a stimulus-response reaction.
Finally, I feel utterly horrible for the referee and linesman. Their careers in sport at the international level are likely finished. What they must have gone through, and be going through is not worth it. Frankly, the sport has let them down, as Wenger explains below. I love competition, I love sport, I get intense, I have made split second reactions like Henry’s that were illegal in sporting competitions. I make mistakes sometimes. I have played sport at a decent level, and continue to coach. I do not dope, I do not intend to injure, I respect my opponents and officials, I work hard, my character means a lot to me. I suspect these statements are the same for Henry, and I suspect they are the same for the officials of the match. The only things is, I don’t play in, or officiate international matches. How are you different from Henry or those officials? Think about that the next time you read, watch, or say anything else about this incident.
I’ve said more than enough, there are many other things we should be focusing on in this world. The resources devoted to this are insanely unbalanced. I will let someone who knows far more about football than I, and a country-man of Henry, tie things up. Get over it – let’s move on – let’s get some balance back.