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Thursday 12 December 2019

'I wouldn't speak to Henry now' - ref on infamous handball

Henry’s double handball ruined Ireland’s World Cup dreams. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Henry’s double handball ruined Ireland’s World Cup dreams. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Swedish referee Martin Hansson has admitted he would not speak to Thierry Henry if he ever met the Frenchman again.

Hansson was the man in the middle on the fateful night in Paris - 10 years ago today - when Henry handled the ball twice before setting up William Gallas to score as Ireland's 2010 World Cup dream died in a hail of controversy.

While Henry was the main focus of Ireland fans' outrage, Hansson and his officiating team were also widely criticised for their failure to spot the blatant double handball in extra time at Stade de France.

In an interview with The Athletic, Hansson admitted it was the worst performance of his career, called for wider conversations about players who cheat, and revealed how he felt bad for Ireland and the "fantastic" people in the country.

"I won't speak with him," said Hansson from his farmhouse in the Swedish town of Holmsjo, when asked what would happen if he ever met Henry again.

In a special Independent.ie podcast remembering Paris 10 years on, Ireland defender Richard Dunne spoke about the mood in the dressing room after the match as manager Giovanni Trapattoni stormed about cursing and looking for answers.

Inconsolable

In the officials' dressing room, Hansson and his team hugged and high-fived on what they believed was a job well done.

"It was something we did before and after every game," Hansson said.

It was only when a Fifa official entered the room that Hansson realised the magnitude of what had just unfolded.

Hansson - who now works as a Fifa referee observer - was "inconsolable" when an official from the FAI knocked on his door.

"We knew by that stage, of course. We knew what it meant for Ireland and we also knew that, for my reffereeing team, the World Cup in South Africa didn't exist any more," he said.

"It was a catastrophe for Ireland. They were so close to the World Cup, and it's such a big thing. Fantastic people, too."

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