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FIFA better act soon
by Paul Kennedy, November 20th, 2009 6:45AM

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[MY VIEW] What should be done in response to the Thierry Henry handball that led to the deciding goal in France's World Cup playoff series against Ireland?

Everyone seemed to have an opinion Thursday, including Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who said he supported the Football Association of Ireland's plea for a replay.

It will never happen.

The truth of the matter is that FIFA is lucky that it was Ireland that was robbed.

Yes, Irish hearts were broken, and it couldn't happened to a nicer bunch of fans. As recently as 1996, FIFA awarded them its "Fair Play" award for their sportsmanship.

What if it hadn't been Swedish referee Martin Hansson missing Henry's handball -- or rather handballs -- on the edge of the endline but Seychellois referee Eddy Maillet missing a similar call in the hotly charged Algeria-Egypt in Khartoum?

Imagine the consequences.

For months I have thought about the Confederations Cup final in Johannesburg in June. A sure goal by Kaka against the USA wasn't given because the referee and his assistant didn't see that the ball had crossed Tim Howard's line. What if the score had held up 2-1 in the USA's favor? And what if it had been the World Cup final and not the Confederations Cup final?

Imagine the stink.

(The referee that night at Ellis Park? You guessed it. Martin Hansson of Sweden.)

Television, the Internet, cell phones. They all allow the painful truth to spread quickly. Not only were there the images of Henry handling ball, not once but twice, before laying it on to William Gallas, there was the interview Henry gave admitting he handled the ball.

The problem these days is that it isn't simply a referee missing a call that a stadium full of fans saw. It's a referee missing a call and the whole world knowing. Almost instantly.

FIFA has the tools to fix the problem. It better act soon. Next time it might not be Ireland that is robbed ...


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