So even if you don't follow soccer, you still probably heard about the controversial hand ball in yesterday's France v. Ireland World Cup qualifying match. For those that might not have seen it, in the second overtime, the 104th minute of the game, French striker Thierry Henry (is it a coincidence that his last name pronounced "Ornery"?) basically trapped a ball inside the box with his hand, and then passed the ball to his teammate William Gallas, who then scored the winning goal.
Why is this such a big deal? France and Ireland failed to automatically qualify for the World Cup, but they did well enough to advance to a playoff for one of the final spots for the World Cup. In order to make things fair, they do a home and away match and take the aggregate score of the two games. The teams played last week in Ireland and France won 1-0. Yesterday Ireland took a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute which meant the teams were tied on aggregate and after 90 minutes game was sent into overtime. So it wasn't just that the controversial goal won the game for France in overtime, that one goal is the difference between France now going to the World Cup this next summer and Ireland missing out on soccer's biggest tournament that only happens once every four years. Ireland is done until 2014.
It's a sad situation. The World Cup is a HUGE deal for countries and to not qualify is devastating for the entire country. Everyone knows it was a handball. The French players and papers feel bad for the Irish team. Henry even acknowledges it was a handball:
''It was a handball, but I'm not the ref,'' [Henry] said on BBC Radio Five Live. ''The ball hit my arm, fell in front of me and I played it. The ref allowed it. That's a question you should ask him.''
He's got a valid point. From the time you start soccer or any sport you are told, "play until you hear the whistle." Players aren't asked to police themselves. You could never ask players to call their own fouls, it's the refs' job to call fouls, but they are clearly imperfect. So the issue arises: Should they institute instant replay? This is always a big issue. Ireland is requesting a rematch. They have a valid argument, but that will never happen. But why not instant replay? It sure would have been useful when Maradona scored the infamous goal against England in the 1986 World Cup Quarterfinals.
There are always a few arguments against replay:
1. It will destroy the integrity of the game. As though a game decided by an illegal play has much integrity.
2. The human element/error of the game/refs is "part of the game." That's a lame reason brought up by people that probably don't know how to use a computer because the refuse to evolve. The best team should win the game, not the team that received favorable calls from the refs.
3. It's impossible to institute because where do you draw the line with replay? This one is valid and it is tough. I don't know if you institute it on every play, just plays in the box, just plays that result in goals or what. But a line has to be drawn somewhere. Crucial games like France v. Ireland shouldn't be determined by an obvious call that could have easily been overruled and reversed. If you feel otherwise, go to a pub in Ireland this summer and try and argue your point. I'm sure someone will convince you otherwise.