WAR! GENOCIDE! FAMINE! SOME MORE WAR AGAIN! Few, if any events in human history can rival the anguish and devastation wrought by the destructive handball carried out by French war criminal Thierry Henry; war, famine and genocide are indeed three of the things that simply pale in comparison.
It was like a bomb went off, only much worse than an actual bomb and Ireland, a nation full of once proud people, has never fully recovered from the events of November 18th 2009.
WWN looks back on the night the entire world was changed forever as one of France’s finest footballers committed an act Time Magazine would go on to call ‘that rare travesty that dwarfs the crimes and inhumanity of the Holocaust’.
Of course, everyone has vivid memories of that night and the events that followed. Who could forget that enduring image of the French Embassy in Dublin set on fire and ransacked by Irish supporters drunk on grief? But there are lesser stories to tell too, the smaller details which give life to a tragedy never fully dealt with and processed by those innocent people altered by the Hand of Frog.
“I still vomit at the sight of baguettes,” shares Dublin accountant Damien O’Brien, who was one of the 79,145 sets of eyes in the Stade de France who clearly saw what the referee Martin Hansson failed to spot. Hansson, now an honourary French citizen, received scorn for his performance, but the fault lies with FIFA who should never have allowed a blind man to referee a game.
“I was standing directly behind a great big beam obscuring my view in the top tier in the last row, but I saw it clearly and I wasn’t the only one to hear Thierry say ‘watch this, I will now appal with a handball, I shut you up, as we go to the World Cup’. That’s how evil and twisted a mind that maniac has, he had the cold-hearted presence of mind to write a shite poem about what he was doing mid-handball, it’s as bizarre as it disgusting,” O’Brien added of the moment, in an account that WWN can personally verify as true.
Amidst the hysteria, many people say they saw a second hand that didn’t belong to Henry pat the ball across the goal and into the path of William Gallas, the ‘second handballer on the pitch’ conspiracy theory continues to have its fans to this day. We will have to wait until 2059, the 50th anniversary of the handball for the documents relating to the incident to be declassified by FIFA.
Shortly after the final whistle, a diplomatic crisis had begun. Then President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, in attendance at the game, head butted Nicolas Sarkozy before returning to Dublin.
In a move very similar to America renaming French fries ‘freedom fries’ during the Iraq War, the Irish government banned thin and creepy moustaches as well as snooty laughter that sounded particularly French. Laughter that sort of sounds like ‘uh haw haw haaaw’ is still banned in Ireland today.
But what of the man at the centre of the incident? Henry, delighted in his country’s progress to the World Cup, and signed lucrative endorsement deals as big brands clamoured to be associated with his cheating hand. Chanel released a line of Henry gloves, the Eiffel Tower was replaced by a giant hand, particularly odd and wealthy French people got surgery on their hands so they looked exactly like Henry’s. The France and Barcelona Arsenal star would later regret these endorsements and claimed his hand ‘acted alone’, but he fooled no one.
The FAI, those noble protectors of Irish football, called for 100 days of mourning and in a move criticised by the few Irish people who simply said ‘move on’ they erased all records of the fact that even if the handball hadn’t happened Ireland would still merely have taken France to extra time in the play off.
The head of the FAI, patriot John Delaney, went on hunger strike outside FIFA headquarters for 89 days demanding justice for Ireland in the form of a highly questionable one-off lump sum payment of €5 million that no one needed to be made aware of.
Amazingly, the French government has still never officially apologised for the Hand of Frog, and despite an arrest warrant being issued by Irish police, Henry remains at large. It will never be known whether or not Ireland would have beaten Spain 17-0 in the final of the World Cup in South Africa.
Ireland continues to mourn, with a week’s long silence observed everyone year starting on the 18th of November. It is hoped an upcoming film ‘Hand of Frog’, starring Daniel Day Lewis as the football, will help the nation heal.