Thierry Henry had to be consoled by Sepp Blatter after his former wife and daughter received death threats from fans furious at the Frenchman's notorious handball that helped cost Ireland the chance of playing in the World Cup finals.
But the Fifa president's sympathy for Henry has not outweighed his outrage at the offence and the France forward could still be punished in the highly charged aftermath of the play-off for next summer's tournament in South Africa.
Blatter will ask the Fifa executive committee tomorrow whether Henry should face sanctions in a move unprecedented in world football. It is not known what punishments could be meted out, although a lengthy ban that could even prevent the Barcelona and former Arsenal forward playing in the finals is possible.
The ramifications will spread wider, with Blatter signalling the scrapping of the play-offs system that led to Ireland's exit and the introduction of extra goal-line referees in time for next year's tournament. There will also be a severe crackdown on cheats at the World Cup as Blatter calls on players and coaches to clean up their game.
Henry unleashed a whirlwind when he twice patted the ball with a hand so that he could cross for William Gallas to score the equalising goal against Ireland in the Stade de France last month.
The 1-1 draw was enough to put France into next year's finals on a 2-1 aggregate score -- but at the expense of Henry's reputation.
Blatter revealed yesterday that he was asked to telephone Henry by Jean-Pierre Escalettes, the president of the French football federation, who was worried that the player was feeling "isolated and abandoned" as he was vilified around the world for not owning up to the handball.
Blatter said they spoke "man to man" and the Fifa president tried to reassure Henry that Nicole, his former wife, and Tea, his daughter, were safe. Henry divorced Nicole in 2008 when he left Arsenal for Barcelona. His wife, who comes from Croydon, South London, stayed near her family.
"His family received threats because of his behaviour," Blatter said. However, the Fifa president dismissed Henry's pleas to have the match replayed and spoke out against cheating. "I cannot change the result," he said.
"How can we tell youngsters that football is the school of life when there is cheating and lack of respect for referees? The lesson must come from the top and we must appeal to the players, coaches and the rest of the football family for more discipline."