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Ireland renews rematch appeal after Henry's remarks

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-20

The Irish Football Association has renewed its appeal to FIFA for of a replay of the controversial World Cup playoff game with France, hours after Bleus captain Thierry Henry said a rematch was the only fair solution.

Irish football chiefs renewed Friday an appeal for football world’s ruling body FIFA to order its handball-marred World Cup playoff with France to be replayed, after French footballer Thierry Henry said a rematch would be the "fairest solution."

The latest appeal comes after the   FIFA officially turned down Friday a request from the Irish football authorities to stage a replay of their controversial November 18 World Cup playoff defeat against France. The match resulted in France qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, and Ireland not going to South Africa.

The controversy arose after a blatant handball from forward Thierry Henry led to France's decisive equaliser.

Henry himself surprised the sporting world Friday by saying in a media statement that "the fairest solution would be to replay the game", increasing pressure on the French football federation to call for a rematch.

The line taken by FIFA, as it said in a press statement, is: "As is clearly mentioned in the Laws of the Game, during matches, decisions are taken by the referee and these decisions are final."

Hervé Armoric, a Dublin-based journalist, told France 24 that though the Irish were not surprised by FIFA’s decision, they were hoping France would rise to the occasion and gallantly offer a rematch. “The Irish were hoping the French would feel so guilty they would play the match again, that Thierry Henry would want so badly for France and Europe to remember him as a hero and not a cheat that he would use all his influence to convince the decision makers to allow a replay.”

Amoric added that the Henry incident was regarded in Ireland as such an outrage that Irish bookmakers, out of “patriotic duty,” were “reimbursing those who bet on Ireland to win.”

The outcome of the match has become an international incident, with both countries heads of state getting involved, often against the counsel of their advisors. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen on Thursday raised the issue with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a Brussels summit, where football was in no way on the agenda. Sarkozy apologised to Cowen, but would not agree to a rematch.

The Internet is abuzz with anti-Thierry sentiment, including three Facebook sites dedicated to calling a boycott against Gillette, simply because they sponsor the French team.

A group called We Irish Hate Thierry Henry (the cheat) already has over 80,000 "fans". One anti-Thierrist created a video game in the “Pong” model, in which the player can take the role of Henry’s hand and swat a football into a goal.

Date created : 2009-11-20

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