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If France and FIFA won’t act on Thierry Henry, let’s have a boycott of Gillette razors

Posted on 19 November 2009 | 10:11am

Central London was heaving last night with happy, cheering, chanting, singing, flag-waving Algerians celebrating the win over Egypt that took them to the World Cup next year.

There is nothing quite like international sport, and particularly football, for generating that kind of traffic-stopping joy, which was being repeated by the Algerian diaspora around the world.

I was on my way home via a fundraiser for the Street Children World Cup, a brilliant idea to host a tournament in South Africa, just before the real thing, for teams of kids from different countries who live on the streets. It is another reminder of the power of football – this time to draw attention to, and push others to do something about, children with no home and no rights.

Hull City’s Brazilian star Geovanni (still smarting from his sending off in their defeat at mighty Burnley) came down from Humberside and he, Jamie Redknapp and I did one of the onstage Q and As with compere Simon Mayo.

Jamie made the point that it is perhaps only after Premier League footballers retire that they fully realise the ability they have to be something more than be footballers, and help to use sport to drive change for others.

So there you have two scenes of the positive side of football. It almost made it bearable to miss the France-Ireland game.

And there we saw another side of football, and one that will have Irish people around the world feeling the exact opposite of the joy of those Algerians.

As for how Thierry Henry feels this morning, only he will really know. He should feel ashamed. But I doubt he will. Not when a nation is rejoicing at qualifying, and FIFA are breathing a sigh of relief that all the ‘big’ countries got through. 

I had been following the match with text messages from my sons, and was able to announce Robbie Keane’s goal to the dinner. Later came the equaliser. Extra time. And then a torrent of texts about the winning ‘goal’ with plenty of references to cheating, and Henry suddenly converting to basketball.

I finally got to see it around midnight, and it was one of those incidents that made you feel sick. Heaven knows how the Irish coaches and players feel. To have worked so hard, and been the better team, and have it stolen like that, is too horrible to imagine. The pain will endure up to and beyond the tournament they deserve to be playing in next year.

I suppose the stakes are too high to imagine that France might do as Henry”s old boss Arsene Wenger did ten years ago, when Arsenal won unfairly in the FA Cup against Sheffield United, and they agreed the result should not stand, and the match be replayed.

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni was clearly devastated but remarkably restrained whilst Henry’s ‘I am not the ref’ defence adds him to a list of cheating sporting infamy headed by Diego Maradona. But at least Maradona was never made out to be a better human being than everyone else.

So if no action can be taken against Henry, or the dozy ref and linesman, or the French authorities who have now seen the replays, what can the rest of us do? Well, not a lot. But as I shaved this morning, I remembered those irritating Gillette ads Henry does with Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.

Why did he land a lucrative contract that? Because he is a great footballer and he has a good image.

Half shaved, I dumped my Gillette razor in the bin and have been down to the shop to buy a non Gillette replacement.

If enough people do it, and Gillette get to hear about it, maybe he’ll get dropped and lose one of the noughts off his bank balance. He won’t care that much, I don’t suppose. He certainly wouldn’t hurt as much as the Irish players will today. But sometimes, futile gestures are all we have.

Off to tell Fiona we may have to get rid of the Renault Clio. Va va voom indeed – French for anything goes. Cheat.

  • @jlocke13

    Actually Alastair here in France there is no great celebration….certainly pleased to be part of the world Cup but on French radio this morning most were embarrassed.. even a French minister confessed her shame (imagine that from the shameless UK government) …some saying it should be replayed and some even saying that the French team should not boycott Gillette if you wish but you can keep your Clio (though a Citroen C3 would be a better choice) and continue drinking Chablis and Champagne!

  • Eddy Anderson

    If you’re feeling particularly vindictive, you might boycott Nike, Reebok, and Pepsi too–I think he’s done advertising work for all three!

    Ireland must be devastated. I really don’t understand why it’s being allowed. It was clearly a handball–and Henry even admitted it. Rematch.

  • Mal Kelly

    Far better would be for all the sponsors with whom Henry has deals to come out and say they will not be renewing them. This is the equivalent to Tiger kicking his opponents ball to the rough, or Federer snipping the strings of Nadal’s racket. Would Gillette keep them? Maybe. But all the companies who have helped put him in the super-rich bracket need to stay where they stand.

  • Charlie Wills

    Good luck to the Street Children World Cup. They should write to Henry today suggesting he appease his conscience by using one of his corporate deals to fund one of the teams of street kids. Fat chance

  • Brian Dawson

    The Irish nation are in mourning today. Your solidarity is appreciated and like you Gilette shall be the focus of my own personal ire!

  • Brian Hughes

    The French don’t seem too impressed, “Sans gloire” is the headline on France 2’s news site.

    I’m not selling my Clio and I doubt you’ll be swapping Provence for County Cork next summer! And, as all good lefties should, I buy “own brand” razor blades from the Co-op…

  • olli issakainen

    I have some shares in a leading sports equipment company which is based in Finland. The company owns brands like Wilson, Salomon and Atomic. Top athletes around the world use the company´s products.
    In its annual report the company lists its values. One of them is fair play. I think this demand should also apply to the top athletes. They have often clauses in their sponsorship and advertising deals which refer to off the field incidents. When incidents do happen on the field, I guess it is much more complicated.

  • Sweeney Agonistes

    It makes a mockery of Fifa’s Fair Play code which states the ‘…moral and ethical principles for which FIFA has always stood and for which it will continue to fight in the future, regardless of the influences and pressures that may be brought to bear.’ And then ‘…Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure.’ If Blatter doesn’t act over this his fair play posturing will be a sham.

  • Colin Morley

    I just watched a replay of TF1 (French TV) coverage and the French commentators were just as horrified as you and the Irish. Today the majority of the French press is not jubilant but sad that a team that played as well as Ireland should be beaten in such a way. I agree that Henry cheated (as much as I admire his footballing skills) but don’t blame the French nation – they are almost as upset about this as the Irish!

  • Carl Gardner

    One of the reasons I’m not as keen on football as you are, Alastair, is that it seems to be full of cheats. Remember a fair few years ago now, how Chelsea won a cup semi with a penalty – but it was clear on video replay that the player dived? As I recall, they went on to win the cup, and to win a European trophy the next year. And nothing, of course, was done about it. That’s how much football cares about cheating.

    So I agree with you: the Irish must feel cheated. But it’s no good just being upset when your own team is cheated. Football has to take radical action to get rid of this. I’d suggest as a minimum that the match result be retrospectively amended so that the cheat’s team loses – here, Ireland should go through. On top of that, Henry should at last be given a red card retrospectively. I’d go further myself, to be honest. A ban of several competitive international matches would be appropriate. On that basis France would be out of the cup and Henry would be out of its Euro2012 qualifiers. It needs to be that tough if you’re going to change attitudes.

    The main thing though is that football’s culture changes so that cheats on all sides – especially on your own side – are held in contempt. Unfortunately I see no sign of that.

  • Salmondnet

    Might be fading memory of course, but I don’t remember any outpouring of Irish sympathy for England after the Maradonna incident (or, come to think of it, any other misfortune, sporting or otherwise).

    Consequently, like postman Pat, I feel intensely relaxed about Henry’s handball and will not be changing my shaving habits.

  • rob

    france is not rejoicing, alastair. neither the french press is. all the headlines are on the contrary condemning Thierry Henry. public television is saying this evening that France has “stolen” its qualification and it even seems everybody is bearing the shame thierry henry should feel. as one of the comments is saying, roselyne bachelot, minister for sports, condemned what was seen yesterday night.
    boycotting your renault? of course it is a joke. but it also looks like a very “Sun” like, or “Daily mail” like reaction. just as putting Henry, France and the French in the same bag is. would not have expected this from you.

  • Tory Girl

    I’m not supporting Ireland on this issue, when have they ever supported England? Anyway this is an argument between France and Ireland let’s keep our nose OUT for a change!

  • PJD

    Henry has got form for this – it was his dive that led to the free kick that undeservedly knocked Spain out of the last world cup. Oh, and there is the entirety of his Arsenal career as well.

  • Alan Quinn

    FIFA also insisted that the big teams were seeded in order for the likes of France and Portugal to go through instead of just drawing teams out of a hat.
    This was in order to have the likes of Henri and Ronaldo there in order to boost TV ratings and make even more money. The game at the top level is corrupt.

  • Martin Yown

    Lets not forget in the first game in Ireland that Robbie Keane did an almost carbon copy of what Henry did. Its only the fact that Evre had a stunning block to stop the shot going in that this isn’t being raised. Someone should put that to the Irish FA.

    Still very disappointed in Henry

  • Mick Regan

    Yep we’re narked in Ireland, but a large part of that frustration is to do with a FIFA agenda that appears to put money before fair play. This ‘event’ has highlighted a sickness in the game and unless FIFA take some action, even if just a punishment, then what they’re really saying is cheat away and good luck if you get away with it.

    Forget Ireland, think about football in general and what you want it to be.

    Oh, and btw Cork is one of those best kept secrets 🙂

  • Nick McGivney

    Tory Girl I am gutted. Not only did we wholesale GIVE you Terry Wogan, but we bastard gave you douze for Katrina and the Waves too. I am soo not voting Tory next time either.

    Angry of Dublin

  • Salmondnet

    Didn’t know the Tories were putting up candidates in Dublin. Do you think someone should tell them they are ninety years too late?

  • Liam Burnham

    If I was Henry, I would feel scapegoated really. Not in a million years was his handball a deliberate one- it hit him, he reacted, and they scored. You can tell this from a) his startled response, b) just by the speed that it all occurred, properly controlled movements just don’t happen in that timescale.

    And it’s not his job to preempt or enforce the rules; remember, a handball is only deemed illegal if deliberate or the offender’s arm is in an ‘unnatural position’, which is the referee’s job to decide. He didn’t, so Henry carried on as he properly should. After seeing a replay he himself admits its a handball, with obvious regret. I don’t know what more you expect.

    So, to conclude: Life’s a shitter, but Henry’s reputation is, for me, untarnished. Shame, because I like ROI.

  • George Woodhouse

    I disagree with most of your politics but never expcted you to become xenophobic about the French over something so trivial. Maybe you should be annoted at the ref and the other officials instead and not all the countrymen of Henry.

    And why havent you expressed an opinion about the EU presidential debacle/stitch up/non democracy. You are not normally so reticent – has your grand plan for Tony fallen apart at the seams?