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Hand of Henry refers to the handball tiebreaker illegally scored by the French football player Thierry Henry during the second qualifier match for World Cup 2010 between France and Ireland on November 18th, 2009. As a result of the game, Ireland’s national football team failed to qualify for the Round of 16 in the World Cup 2010.
In November 2009, the French and Irish national football teams went head-to-head twice for the World Cup 2010 regional qualifiers. The first match, which took place on November 14th in Ireland’s Croke Park, resulted in the French victory (Anelka, Goal 72’). The second match, which took place four days later on November 18th in France, came to a standstill at 1 – 1 (aggregate score) after 90 minutes. At about 13 minutes into extra time, French player Florent Malouda executed a free kick toward Thierry Henry, who handled the bouncing ball to keep it in play before tapping it over to his teammate William Gallas who then headed the ball into the Irish net.
The game’s result was immediately met by strong contest from the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and Irish government officials, who called on the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) to settle the dispute through a rematch or allow the Irish national team to enter the World Cup in 2010 as the 33rd qualifier, an unprecedented scenario in the history of the tournament.
News Media Coverage
The scandalous result of the game not only sparked an international controversy, but also drew massive attention from the European news media, according to the BBC. Many publications were quick to compare the incident to Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal during the quarter-final match against England in the 1986 World Cup, dubbing Henry’s illegal goal as the “Hand of Frog,” the “Hand of Gaul” and the “Hand of Henry” affair.
The French newspapers also acknowledged the controversial nature of the incident; Agence France-Presse (AFP) pointed out that Henry had been “pilloried as a cheat around the globe” as a result of the handball, while French newspapers L’Équipe, Le Parisien and Le Figaro led the frontpage stories with headlines “Hand of God,” “Henry Saves France with His Hand” and “Henry: I Am Not Referee.” According to the leading French daily newspaper Le Monde’s online poll, which asked “Does France deserve to be in South Africa?,” the overwhelming 88% of the 97,000 respondents said “no” to the question.
Meanwhile, both the British and Spanish media showed great interest in covering the football scandal, as both countries have been home to Henry’s club football teams. In the following year, TIME magazine named Henry as number one in the round-up article “Top 10 Sporting Cheats” published in May 2010.
Later that same day on November 18th, an online petition demanding a rematch was launched via Facebook, which gained more than 500,000 signatures from Facebook users in the span of a few days. The petition was to be handed to FIFA once it passed half a million signatories. Throughout the last week of that month, single serving sites and parody songs dedicated to the “Hand of Henry” scandal emerged online, including HenryHandOfFrog.com and MainHenry.com, as well as lyrical references in “Protest Song with No Name” by The Mighty Stef and “The Hand of Henry” by The Corrigan Brothers.
On November 20th, Henry finally broke his silence and spoke with a reporter about the incident, during which he acknowledged the foul:
“Yes, there was hand, but I’m not the referee. ‘Toto’ (Sébastien Squillaci) was going for the front, I was behind two Irishmen, the ball ricocheted and hit my hand. Of course, I continued to play… The referee did not whistle ‘hand’ but I can’t say there wasn’t hand.”
As it is often the case with football-related memes, Henry’s handball scandal triggered a wave of cleverly photoshopped images depicting the French football player as an athlete of other sports that involve handling the ball, such as basketball, baseball and even rugby.