It’s not easy to get an Irishman to sympathize with the collective pain of the British, but French soccer star Thierry Henry may have done just that.
In a move reminiscent of Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God,” in which he helped his team beat England in the 1986 World Cup by punching the ball over the English goalkeeper and into the net, Mr. Henry has edged his country into this June’s World Cup finals.
The referee missed the clear penalty and the goal stood despite Irish protests. The second-leg playoff ended a few short minutes later 1-1, which was enough to squeak France through to the finals, since it won the first leg in Ireland earlier this week.
Although Henry’s moment of weakness will instantly be placed among the top moments of trickery in international soccer history, it will not be enough to challenge Mr. Maradona’s as the gold standard of soccer cheating. (When Maradona was questioned about his hand ball back in 1986, he said it was “el mano de Dios” – “the hand of God” – and the phrase is still enough to turn reserved English cheeks red with rage.)
But now Irish fans have a taste of how their historical enemies across the Irish Sea feel after having a high-stakes game on the world’s biggest stage come down to one indisputable moment of deceit.
As the tricoleurs fluttered in packed seats of the Stade de France in Paris and cameras settled on a banner that read “Mandela, here we come,” Irish fans everywhere must have found it hard to swallow.
And as the sports shows repeat the clip of Henry handling the ball over and over in the coming hours and days, the Frenchman will surely be climbing the charts of Ireland’s least favorite people.
Will the golden boy’s image takes a hit in the rest of the soccer world? We’ll have to wait and see.