Henry off the hook

[WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN] FIFA will not punish Thierry Henry for using his hands to set up France's deciding goal in the World Cup qualifying game against Ireland that sent Les Bleus to South Africa. The FIFA Disciplinary Committee reached the conclusion on Monday, stating that there was no legal foundation for the committee to consider the case because handling the ball cannot be regarded as a serious infringement as stipulated by the FIFA Disciplinary Code.

FIFA's statement said that there "is no other legal text that would allow the committee to impose sanctions for any incidents missed by match officials."

Ireland was leading, 1-0, in the second leg of the playoff in November when Henry handled the ball to control it and set up William Gallas for the equalizing goal in overtime that gave France a 2-1 aggregate win. The transgression escaped the officiating crew but was captured clearly by television cameras.

"I don't want players to get banned, but [the decision] promotes 'if you can get away with it, do it,'" Irish defender Sean St Ledger, who played in the game at the Stade de France, told The Times. "I've seen [the incident] again today and I still think he intentionally, the second time, handballed it. I still feel a bit hurt from it."

The Irish soccer federation had demanded a replay or to go to the World Cup as a 33rd team. Both proposals were rejected, although FIFA President Sepp Blatter called the incident "blatant unfair play."

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