I use to look on Thierry Henry as a giant in the world of sport. He seemed to embody all the attributes of the 'gentleman footballer'-debonair, chic, knowledgeable about so many topics, always so calm and elegant in the heat of the fierce battles that took place on the playing fields of Europe and beyond.
He was an icon that you were proud to tell your children to emulate. A consummate professional.
But his behaviour on Wednesday against Ireland smacked of all that is corrupt in the cynical world of professional sport. His deliberate double handling of the ball broke all the rules of the game. But it was compounded by his celebrations after Gallas scored and his lying immediately after the game when he stated that he didn’t know if he had touched the ball.
‘Sportsmanship’ was dealt a death blow by the whitest of all knights. Good has become evil. For Henry has given the green light to children and everyone else that the ‘ends justifies the means’. In a period when people are disgusted with the antics of politicians, priests, bankers, business leaders and top civil servants who preach of honesty, personal sacrifice and decency while milking the system for personal gain, we need true role models more than ever before. But the French captain has dashed our hopes that football is still a beautiful game played by heroes.
By his latest deeds and words, he wants us now to recognise lawbreaking as a virtue.
Of course the stance of FIFA has only reinforced this criminality. Their motto of ‘Fair Play’ was exposed as a facade when they seeded at the last minute the teams in the World Cup play-offs in order to ensure that the large wealthy countries secured an unfair advantage in getting through to the finals in South Africa. They lied too when they said that there was no precedent in re-staging the Ireland-France game. In 2005, they had the Bahrain – Uzbekistan match replayed due to a disputed penalty decision by the referee. However this time the world football governing body wants the money-generating galaxy of French stars to go forward at the expense of the minnows of Ireland.
Henry and FIFA together have shown that power and wealth take precedence in the world of sport just as is so often the case in the world of politics and business. Both have 'blood money' on their greedy hands.