Yesterday was the final day of qualifying for the World Cup. Unfortunately, it was a bad day for soccer. France and Ireland were playing the second leg of their 2 game qualifying playoff. France had won the first game 1-0 in Dublin so Ireland was forced to outscore the French in the second game in order to advance. The game was in Paris with 79,145 fans in attendance.
The Irish took a 1-0 lead into extra time. If they would have kept the 1-0 lead, the advancing team would be decided by penalty kicks. However, in the 103rd minute William Gallas headed in a goal from a short pass by Thierry Henry. Before Henry passed the ball, he clearly used his left hand to keep it in bounds. I have to say that while it was happening in real time it was hard to pick up on. However, several of the Irish players saw it and were begging the refs to call it, particularly the keeper.
I can say that I’ve lost respect for Henry. He did admit after the game that it was a handball, but that doesn’t excuse his action of doing it. You play soccer your entire life. You know when you’re cheating. Dives, handballs, tugging on jerseys–it is a part of the game. But how you can do something as deliberately wrong as that when so much is on the line baffles me. I find it hard to root for France or Barcelona now. Honestly, it gives me a sick feeling to my stomach. My sympathy goes out to all the Ireland players and fans. Like I said, that was a bad day for any true football fan.
Not only that, but immediately before Henry received the ball, there were 2 players offsides on the free kick. There was no excuse for the line judge to miss that call. A player cannot be offsides on a corner, throw-in, or goal kick, but this was a free kick.
Many people are demanding instant replay in soccer now. Just like in baseball, I say no way. Soccer is unique as a sport in that there is such a tremendous flow in the game. You don’t start and stop in soccer. The time keeps running. Adding instant replay would destroy the game in my opinion. I say you put one additional official next to each goal. Having more trained eyes is just going to increase the efficiency of the officiating. It is the same thing with baseball. Additional replay is only going to hurt the game. Make sure the umpires are trained well, and increase the number of them during the postseason.