One thing about not blogging for a week is you can sit back and watch the hysterical reactions going on in the world of football without feeling like you have to dive in and add your voice. It has been one of those weeks.
First we had the curse of the international break rear its ugly head again, in the form of injuries to Van Persie and Gibbs. The timing of the former is painful because he was on such a hot streak, and with important games coming up it helps to have the players likely to strike fear into the opponents. For the latter, it is also a blow, but for different reasons – with Clichy out, Gibbs had a great chance to stake his claim for a regular first team spot. Ask Fabianski how a mistimed injury can drop you down the pecking order.
But in both cases, panic spread like wildfire, only for subsequent reports to confirm that the injuries were not as bad as initially feared. Which, frankly, made some of the outlandish statements made in the interim seem all the more foolhardy. As soon as the Dutchman collapsed on the turf, our season was being written off, a bizarre conclusion given how many goalscorers we have. As it turns out, Gibbs might be fit in just over a week, with Van Persie returning just after Christmas. It isn’t ideal, but it isn’t a crisis either.
If you were to make me select positions to lose players to injury, I’d plump for strikers and left backs, as we have the cover. Just wrap Gallas and Vermaelen up in cotton wool and we’ll be fine.
And then we have the internationals. Fans and the media do like to get overboard from time to time, don’t they? We had Eduardo, and now we have ‘Handball-Gate’, the inevitable title of last night’s incident. For those who don’t know, you must be living under a rock, but essentially Henry instinctively (perhaps) handled the ball, crossed for Gallas, who scored to put France into the World Cup.
And that’s about it. Was it a clear handball? Yes. Was it deliberate? That depends largely on whether you consider instinct to be the same thing. Should the goal have stood? Absolutely not.
But it was one of a million incidents that referees and linesmen miss. Yes, somehow, this has got the footballing public into such a flurry that we have fans calling in to Sky to get the match replayed, and beyond that, Kevin Kilbane and Liam Brady are demanding the match to be null and void.
Some go even further – one caller on Sky Sports was comparing Henry’s actions with the business world, where fraud can land you in jail. Has the world gone mad? Even the Irish Justice Minister waded in:
“They probably won’t grant it as we are minnows in world football but let’s put them on the spot. Otherwise, if that result remains, it reinforces the view that if you cheat, you will win.”
“Well, I’d like to think it would be replayed and I think everyone in the squad would like it replayed.”
What possible grounds are there for replaying the game? Imagine the precedent – suddenly every team that loses to a goal that shouldn’t have stood because of a handball or a foul could demand the same. Or to take it further, maybe a result is canned because a throw in was awarded the wrong way, leading to the winning goal. After all, the argument here is that Henry deliberately cheated – is appealing for a throw you know isn’t yours any different?
It is beyond ridiculous. Yes, it is a harsh way to go out, but it is hardly new. I remember South Korea knocking Italy out in 2002 thanks to a series of horrendous refereeing decisions. Australia lost to Italy in 2006 to a penalty that wasn’t. Did anyone demand a replay then? Of course not.
Get a fucking grip.
Disclaimer – please don’t think this is an anti-Irish rant. Strangely enough, most of the hysterical reactions have come from the English media and English fans. Most Irish I’ve seen mention the incident are understandably pissed off but at the same time accept that’s how football is sometimes. Check out an excellent post by Arseblogger (who is Irish) for evidence of rationality.