BARCELONA (AFP) - Thierry Henry, in the eye of a storm surrounding his handball in Wednesday's World Cup play-off against Ireland, received welcome support Friday from his club manager at Barcelona.
Pep Guardiola described Henry's double handball which led to the goal that put France into the World Cup at the expense of the Republic of Ireland as an "instinctive" reaction.
His comments were at odds with a mass of opinion voiced since Wednesday's play-off labelling the striker as a blatant cheat.
After a closed training session in which the under-fire French skipper took part, Guardiola said: "It's obvious there was a handball and I believe that it was instinctive. I am absolutely certain that the referee didn't see it."
The Spaniard added: "Titi (Henry) is not proud to have done that, but it wasn't premeditated."
The 'hand of Henry' affair has reopened the debate to introduce video terchnology to prevent situations like this occurring with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger among those advocating a change.
Guardiola gave his qualified support to this view suggesting that in certain instances "it wouldn't be bad to have the video there to make the decision".
Guardiola has called up Henry for Saturday's Spanish league fixture against Athletic Bilbao.
The forward kept a low profile when he arrived for the training session, avoiding the waiting media.
Henry's part in Ireland's downfall - the striker stopped the ball going over the goalline with his left hand before setting up William Gallas for the decisive extra time goal - was still preoccupying the Spanish media.
"Football rails against 'cheating' Henry," was the headline in sports daily Marca.
Despite the controversial nature of France's play-off victory world football's governing body FIFA on Friday turned down appeals by both French and Irish government ministers to stage a replay.
Henry himself issued a statement saying a replay would be "the fairest solution", adding that Ireland "definitely deserve to be in South Africa".
|Coach: R. Domenech|
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