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Friday, November 20, 2009

Les Bleus Handed World Cup Qualification: Literally

Why the hooha and the brouhaha about Thiery Henry "handballing" France to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa? France had to qualify for the World Cup, whether it meant through a dubious penalty decision or a beachball deflection incident. And they did. Through the third feet of course (if you know what I mean).

Who wouldn't have done the same, if it meant participating for the 18carat (75%) solid gold trophy, in the biggest sporting gala in planet earth, bringing 32 countries under the horizon of the blue African sky?

May be, and just may be, the Irish should have expected what they got, or something close to that, to happen. When a "Big" team plays against a small one - and I don't mean Ireland is a small team, but it is - all the wrong decisions made right, illegal tackles legalized, wrong penalties awarded, and of course handballs not given seem to swing on the big team's side. It even becomes much tougher if the big team is on their home turf and in front of nervous but rapturous aficionados. Wasn't that not the precise case of the France versus Ireland match played at Stade de France, in Saint Denis, north outskirts of Paris?

Yes, the result was unfair to the Irish. But neither Giovanni Trapattoni's vest, nor the tears of the entire Republic of Ireland's squad can change the results, or reverse the gusto of the French nation swimming in the thoughts of featuring in the world cup, again.

So when Les Blues coach Raymond Domenech says there's no need for an apology to the Irish, he has a point and my backing, and so does many football followers and pundits. An apology will not reverse the referee's decision, or much less, convince Sepp Blatter and his troops at the 99 million pound Zurich house to embrace and adopt video technology in the game we all love, at least for now.

Is this case so much different from the Kenya versus Nigeria game played in Nairobi?

Okay, this was a more different match, considering that Kenya - hereby the smaller team- were playing home. But didn't the referee fail to award Kenyans a clear penalty when their dangerman, Dennis Oliech, who had been causing Joseph Yobo defensive nightmares was literally pushed off balance? And how about Obafemi Martin's second goal? Do offside goals come any clearer than that?And wasn't that the same scenario of the big fish always being "helped" to feed, while the food should be for the small fish?

International football is not any different from domestic league football, where a big team, measured first by financial width and breadth, always seem to have their way.

The Republic of Ireland maybe an economically-endowed nation. But France is equally endowed but has more besides. So that makes Ireland a small team. And since few people could have imagined a World Cup without France, perhaps even the Irish, the Les Bleus had to qualify. And they did. Being bundled out before the World Cup group stages was simply unimaginable, whether they got bundled out by Ireland or Papua New Guinea.

So all Mr. Trapattoni and his charges have to do is wait. Wait for the next qualifier and hope that they wont be trapped with the French at the playoff level again, or better yet, avoid, if they can, a Big team. Don't we all know the nations that acclaim to that tagging?

And that's the Steifmastertake!