Henry still a villain as far as Irish are concerned

The Frenchman is Belgium’s assistant coach and was at the Dublin stadium for the 2-2 draw between Ireland and Belgium as the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) celebrated its centenary.

Henry was at the centre of a controversial handball incident in World Cup qualifying in 2009 that saw France pip Ireland in a playoff to go through the finals.   -  REUTERS

Irish fans showed they have long memories, and have not forgiven, when they subjected Thierry Henry to a loud chorus of jeers on Saturday as television cameras lingered on him sitting on the bench for Belgium in the friendly international at the Aviva Stadium.

The Frenchman is Belgium’s assistant coach and was at the Dublin stadium for the 2-2 draw between Ireland and Belgium as the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) celebrated its centenary.

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He was subjected to a roar of disapproval when television pictures of him were shown on the stadium’s giant screen.

Henry was at the centre of a controversial handball incident in World Cup qualifying in 2009 that saw France pip Ireland in a playoff to go through the finals.

France had won the first leg 1-0 in Dublin but were trailing 1-0 in front of their own fans at the Stade de France, after a first-half goal by striker Robbie Keane, when Florent Malouda took a free kick from the halfway line in extra time.

Henry, captain of the French side, raced into the box from the left, controlled the ball with his hand to keep it in play and crossed for William Gallas, whose header gave Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given no chance.

It ensured France won the tie 2-1 on aggregate to seal their ticket to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The next morning, French sports daily L’Equipe headlined their report “La main de Dieu” (The hand of God), in reference to the goal Diego Maradona scored with his hand against England at the 1986 World Cup. British tabloid the Sun chose “The hand of frog”.

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Henry, whose reputation took a hammering, admitted afterwards he had handled the ball and apologised.

“I am not the referee... but if I have hurt somebody, I’m sorry,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Henry, who was never sanctioned, later said he contemplated retiring from international football after the incident, such was the backlash of criticism.

The FAI’s demands for a replay and a “33rd place” at the World Cup were turned down by then FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

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