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    Led by Captain Thierry Henry, France Goes Through to the World Cup and Will Forever After be Known as Cheating Bastards


    Last night, France escaped elimination from 2010 World Cup qualifying, sending Ireland home instead. In the last possible seconds of overtime, just before a shoot out would have become necessary, French team captain Thierry Henry forwarded a free kick to William Gallas, who headed it into the goal. Fantastic finish, right? Fantastic except for the fact that to keep the ball in play, Henry basically had to catch it. With his hand.

    After the goal, he felt justified in taking a victory lap around the field, clapping and laughing to the delight of the fans in the Paris stadium. Then, perhaps realizing he was tarnishing his image a bit, he sat in the dugout commiserating in sympathy with one of the Irish players.

    After the game his (paraphrased) answer to the inevitable question was: Yeah, it was a handball but it's the ref's responsibility to call it, so we win.

    I don't speak French too well, but I'm pretty sure he added, "Suckers!!"

    Before last night, I admit to liking Henry. He's one of the world's best players and he was fun to watch. Now, all I think about him is that he's not above cheating to win. He's not the only one. There is a great deal of cheating in international men's soccer. They dive, they waste time, they roll around on the ground like toddlers who just bonked their heads at the slightest sign of physical contact.

    I don't care too much for the drama and wish they'd just get on with it. But a handball is different--it seems almost unholy. Where the diving and histrionics are a part of all games (some more than others, ITALY), a handball, even an inadvertent one, is penalized. I've watched the video several times and I don't find anything inadvertent about Henry's actions last night. Had the referee or his linemen seen it, Henry would have been rewarded with a red card and France would have gone into the shoot out without their striker captain. Which is exactly what should have have happened.

    Maybe the French team thinks they earned their spot, with two years of qualifying matches and a lot of hard work. But in one instant, Henry has made his team reviled by most of the rest of the world. But hey, maybe they'll have a good time in South Africa anyway.




    That's why soccer (and by extension, hockey) sucks. You never see any cheating in those true American sports, football and baseball.

    If you're not a soccer fan, you're going to be very disappointed with my blogging next summer. World Cup Fever, baby!

    Actually, I like soccer about as much as I like other sports, which is to say it's perfectly fine to play, but I just can't imagine myself watching more than 5 minutes of it.

    The exception to this, of course, is timbersports. Wynyard rocks!

    If I'm Ireland, I'm pissed. Very much reminds me of U.S.-Germany in 2002, when U.S. was in its best form ever and lost the tying goal because of an unseen hand ball.

    But that's soccer. I know in Brazil, cheating is not frowned on like in the U.S. If you can cheat, get away with it and win. The "win" part is the only thing that matters. It's definitely more a cultural thing.

    And I still like Henry quite a bit. But he damn near caught that ball and set it on his foot. But who's more to blame, Henry or blind refs?

    There is a great deal of cheating in international men's soccer.

    You've pretty neatly summed it up, Orlando. There's diving in hockey, too, of course: Your skates get a bit tangled with an opposing player's stick, and you execute a reverse one-and-a-half that leaves you sprawled at the ref's feet. The other guy usually gets two minutes, but if overreaction is suspected, you may end up in the penalty box as well. Still, at least there is some contact.

    It was years back, and I have no memory of the teams involved, but I recall seeing a supposed foul that left one player writhing on the ground, clutching his knee in agony, and the offending player sent off. What the slo-mo replay showed, however, was that there had been no contact whatsoever. There were inches of air (centimetres, at least) between the carded player's boot and the "injured" player's knee. Not an exagerrated contact -- an entirely fictional one, with the whole shoddy pantomime caught on videotape. 

    I cannot watch any soccer match without that one phantom kick (from perhaps a decade back) popping into my mind. And I see every player as a cheater-in-waiting.

    Are you able to watch American football despite the fact that you know have the players at least are guzzling steroids? Or baseball? What about traveling in the NBA that's never called, or phantom tags at second base?

    All sports have a level of cheating, and they'll all get away with whatever they can to win. Any athlete that would avoid doing something to win out of honor for the game is generally not much of a competitor.

    I've always thought that a way to discourage diving is to give the player 1 minute to get up, if not, they are off the fireld for at least 5 minutes, if not 10. If the player is injured, a replacement can come in immediately.

    The diving issue in soccer is bad for the game. But the fact is, no one does anything about it, so it will continue.

    You're right that some of them do it because they can get away with it, but it doesn't make me like it any more or respect the players who do it. There's also much, much less of it in the women's games. The women tend to play more and playact less.

    The ref is responsible because it is his job to maintain the "integrity" of the game. So the ref or the linemen screwed up. Henry is more responsible because he stuck out his hand to stop a ball that he couldn't control with his body or his feet.

    Because he's one of the best, he's got zillions of kids looking up to him. And he just taught all of them a valuable lesson. It's okay to cheat if it gets you the win.

    P.S. It looks like the French players were offside at the beginning of the play. Chalk up another inexcusable screw up for the linemen.

    If the governing bodies even considering a re-match, then it would mean that the match between Crystal Palace and Bristol City would also need to be replayed after the referee missed a PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE goal.

    One of the governing bodies that would have to agree to a rematch is the French football association. What odds are you willing to offer?

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