Zidane backs Henry on handball

FORMER France midfielder Zinedine Zidane has re-ignited the row over Thierry Henry’s controversial handball in the World Cup play-off against Ireland by claiming that FIFA was right not to arrange a replay of the game.

Zidane also claimed that Henry was justified in his decision not to admit his handball to referee Martin Hansson, although he conceded that he is ‘sure that Henry regrets the incident now’.

Zidane, who was sent off in the 2006 World Cup final only after the fourth official consulted a video replay of his head-butt on Marco Materazzi, believes that the row will eventually expedite the arrival of video technology.

“You simply can’t go into having the game replayed, otherwise we will keep on replaying games (whenever a row comes up), said Zidane. “This is also the beauty of the game: sometimes it falls for you, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

The former French World Cup and Euro 2000 winner, who was named Fifa World Player of the Year in 1998, 2000 and 2003, missed the incident at first, but has developed his own theory about what happened in the aftermath of the game.

“I didn’t see the handball at first but it’s part of football,” he said.

“It was talked about a lot because it qualified a team for the World Cup. The captain will probably have to live with that for a long time – and even more so because so many people outside football got involved.

“Those are the people who come to eat out of your hand when you lift trophies, and who kill you when it’s not going well. But I am sure that Henry isn’t proud of his gesture.”

And yet Zidane was adamant that Henry should not have told Swedish official Hansson about his infringement after his cross for William Gallas was prodded into the net for the crucial strike that qualified Les Bleus for South Africa. “What would he have said to the referee? When you go to the see referees, they tell you that they are the refs, not you. ‘Shut up,’ they say! So you have to be sensible.”

The row over Henry’s goal has pushed the debate about video technology to the forefront of football’s agenda and Zidane is an advocate of the change taking place.

“I am in favour of the video replay, only for events that happen inside the box and have a direct impact on a goal,” he said.

“Otherwise, I am not in favour of the video, because we will be on the pitch for four hours.

“But I know, I can feel it, that we will have the video one day. Maybe it will be 10 years, but that day will come. And if this isn’t brought in through Platini, then it will be through his successor.”

Zidane was expressing his views in today’s edition of France Football magazine, in which he went on to surprisingly admit that he was pleased to have been sent off on his last appearance as a professional following his moment of controversy as a Bleu.

“It’s good that Gigi Buffon told the referee what I had done, because that really wasn’t nice. Honestly, I don’t know how I could have lived if Les Bleus had won the game and I had stayed on the pitch.”

Buffon recently confirmed that he had told the fourth official about Zidane’s head-butt on Materazzi and it was the official who alerted the ref.

“It’s better that it happened that way,” admitted Zidane. “I would suffered badly, that is for sure [if Buffon had done nothing], even more so because this would have been my last image as a football player, unlike Titi. Being world champion after such a gesture, that would have been difficult for me.”

The implication from Zidane is that Henry, at least, has some time to make amends for his moment of madness.


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