DUBLIN (AFP) - Angry Ireland called on FIFA Thursday to allow its World Cup playoff with France to be replayed, as a dispute over Thierry Henry's blatant handball threatened to become a diplomatic row.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said he supported the Football Association of Ireland's request, and promised to raise the issue with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at an EU summit.
Video replays showed Henry used his hand to stop the ball going out of play in extra-time of Wednesday's match, before he passed to William Gallas to head the goal for a 2-1 aggregate win which sent France to South Africa.
"The blatantly incorrect decision by the referee to award the goal has damaged the integrity of the sport," the FAI said in a statement.
"We now call on FIFA, as the world governing body for our sport, to organise for this match to be replayed."
As he arrived in Brussels for the meeting to choose two top EU jobs, Cowen said: "Our minister of sport actually will write to FIFA in support of that complaint and look for a re-match."
He said he and Sarkozy "will probably have a chat about it away from the table," but added that he wanted football's authorities to resolve the row and ensure "that fair play is upheld here."
But as the fallout intensified, the French prime minister said the Irish government should not get involved in FIFA business.
"Neither the French government nor the Irish government should interfere in the functioning of the international federation," Francois Fillon said.
FIFA confirmed it had received a letter of complaint from the FAI, but refused to say when any decision would be made.
Ireland's chances of forcing a replay appear slim.
The match in Paris was one of four playoffs on Wednesday which finalised the 32-nation line-up for South Africa.
The draw for next year's finals is due to be made in Cape Town on December 4, leaving little time in a calendar already crowded by club matches.
Who's saying what about Henry handball
The Irish football body pointed to a precedent: a FIFA decision in 2005 to invalidate the result of a World Cup qualifier between Ukbekistan and Bahrain on the basis of "a technical error by the referee of the match".
But a FIFA spokesman said that was a "very different" case, because the referee in the match "saw the incident in question and simply failed to apply the proper rules".
FAI chief executive John Delaney said his organisation had also written to the French Football Federation (FFF) asking for the playoff to be replayed, and urged FIFA to take action.
"If FIFA believe in fairplay and integrity... this is their opportunity to step forward," a clearly agitated Delaney said.
"From the French FA's point of view, they need to look at themselves and look at this situation.
"Thierry Henry's their captain, he's a wonderful footballer, but does he want to be remembered like Maradona was in 1986, does he want his legacy to be this handball?" he asked, referring to Diego Maradona's infamous 'Hand of God' goal for Argentina against England at the 1986 World Cup.
Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni said he did not believe FIFA would grant a replay.
"It is impossible to repeat the game," the experienced Italian said.
He urged FIFA to explain how Swedish referee Martin Hansson, who failed to spot the incident, had been chosen for such a high-profile match, saying: "For this important game we needed a stronger referee, an important referee."
Henry himself admitted handling, but said the responsibility for seeing the incident fell to the match official.
Trapattoni refused to blame the player, saying: "It wasn't up to Henry to say 'I touched it with my hand'."
The Irish press were unanimous in their condemnation.
"We were robbed" said the Irish Star, "Le Cheat" added the Irish Mirror, while the Irish Sun splashed with the "Hand of the Frog".
A Facebook page entitled "We Irish hate Thierry Henry (the cheat)" also drew hundreds of comments, including a call for an Irish boycott of French goods.
|Coach: R. Domenech|
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