What are the laws of football for? You get sent off for dangerous play because it’s dangerous. You get sent off for fouling too much because you shouldn’t foul too much. But what are the implications of these dastardly acts? Usually nothing. Just the general cleaning up of the game and allowing it to be the free-flowing attacking game we all love. If players are allowed to kick other players all they want then we probably wouldn’t have teams like the current Spain side. So it’s all good really. Ultimately though, yellow and red cards are passed on to punish infringements. Things that players shouldn’t do. Sometimes, if these things look very bad, long bans are passed along. When Paulo Di Canio pushed over that referee he got a long ban. The implication of his transgression was that referees had been demeaned and he’d set a bad example – you can’t assault the ref – but no real lasting damage was done. Eric Cantona jumped into the crowd, and while this sort of thing is bad too, no real lasting damage was done there either. Call up 95% of red card offences over the last season and again, no real lasting damage is done.
Ireland played a hell of a lot of international football to get to last night’s playoff. They’ve been all over Europe, spent hundreds of thousands of pounds no doubt, used up all sorts of time and effort in an attempt to get to the World Cup. The World Cup, the greatest show on earth, the biggest football tournament there is, the biggest sporting tournament there is. And now they can’t go because Thierry Henry deliberately handled the ball (twice) and knocked them out. Henry should be banned. Is there a bigger crime in football than his, in terms of pure intent and the implications of this deliberate act? I can’t think of one. The implications of what Henry did are far greater than the implications of any other transgression a player might make (deliberately or otherwise – and let’s not forget that many red cards come from accidental incidents). He should be banned. All this talk of “he’s not the ref” completely misses the point. The referee didn’t deliberately cheat a team out of a place at the world cup. Henry did.