Henry may miss World Cup opener

THIERRY HENRY is facing the prospect of being banned from the start of next summer’s World Cup finals after FIFA announced their disciplinary committee had opened proceedings against the French striker for his infamous hand ball.

The incident in the World Cup play-off against the Republic of Ireland was the main subject of an emergency meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Cape Town yesterday.

However, the body rejected a proposal – brought in response to the hand ball — to fast-track the experimental system of having five officials on the pitch, with two extra assistant referees behind each goal-line, for the World Cup.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced the proceedings against Henry at a news conference and although he added it was too early to speculate on the outcome, the Barcelona forward could face a range of sanctions, with a one-match ban perhaps the most likely.

Asked why FIFA were making a special case of Henry when so many players commit hand balls, Blatter said: “This is a matter of the disciplinary committee and it’s not a question of this player or another – it was blatant unfair play and was shown all around the world, but I don’t know what the outcome will be.”

“I have not said that Thierry Henry will be punished, I have said that Thierry Henry will be examined by the disciplinary committee of FIFA.”

Blatter said players should realise that the eyes of the world will be on them next summer.

“I appeal to all the players and coaches to observe this fair play. In 2010 we want to prove that football is more than just kicking a ball but has social and cultural value,” he added.

“So we ask the players, ‘Please observe fair play’, so they will be an example to the rest of the world.”

The hand ball led to William Gallas’ decisive goal that ended Irish dreams of reaching the World Cup.

The outcry has now led to FIFA being pressed to announce an inquiry into the possibility of using technology or extra officials.

FIFA also warned Argentina coach Diego Maradona not to try to circumvent his two-month ban from football activities by turning up to Friday’s draw with media accreditation.

Maradona was banned for an X-rated outburst live on television following Argentina’s last-gasp qualification for the finals.

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said: “If he shows up for accreditation — no way. It’s not just football matches he has been banned by the disciplinary committee but for all football activities.”


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