The smear campaign against Thierry Henry or “the problem of “self-disclosure
An unprecedented smear campaign has been waged in recent days against Thierry Henry, the attacker for the French national team and FC Barcelona, who until now was considered an irreproachable sportsman and who is now to have the mantle of the impure sportsman slipped over him?!
So what had happened: As well as one may certainly know and remember, this is to be disregarded for the moment and only the situation described – with the small note of one’s own view.
Ireland versus France, an elimination duel for a place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in a first and second leg. The French won the first leg 1-0 in Ireland, quite happily, as the observing reporter is happy to testify. Not only did the Irish have a few good chances in the first half and the game was otherwise evenly balanced with minimal advantages for the Irish, but the winning goal for the French came from a successful action, but the shot fired by Anelka was unfortunately deflected so that the Irish goalkeeper had no chance to defend. For the French, the second leg was thus declared a walk in the park – at least by the “responsible” media. However, the Irish also showed in the second leg that they were not there without good reason. They scored 1:0 in France, in Paris, so extra time was needed. In this extra time, the game remained open until suddenly a good scoring chance arose. Thierry Henry reached the ball just before the touchline, passed it on to William Gallas, who was placed directly in front of the goal, and he headed the ball over the line. 1-1, soon followed by the final whistle. The French on, the Irish out.
Immediately after the goal, the Irish were seen gesticulating wildly at both the referee and his assistant on the line. They were pointing at their own hands, obviously trying to imply that the goal was not legal, that there was a hand involved. The television pictures that were played immediately afterwards revealed the “outrage”: Thierry Henry had actually put the ball in front of him with his left hand in order to be able to control it before the line. And that was not even enough. He had to play it a second time extremely smoothly, and on closer inspection, as the cameras later revealed, not visible to the referee and presumably also to the assistant, with his hand, before he could serve it to Gallas in a measured manner.
Well, the protests of the Irish were absolutely justified. The wrong decision was exposed. Thanks, of course, to modern television technology (how would such a thing have been commented on in the past, even if it had gone through the media that there were protests?). The referees might have been able to tell from the players’ reaction that something was wrong. Certainly. They could also have asked the attacker, as Urs Meier suggested, whether he had used his hand. Result of the questioning: open.
Thierry Henry is a really bad boy. Yes, that has to be said. Because he should have gone to the ref immediately after the goal, as anyone else would have done of course, and explained to him that this goal was not correct. That is quite clear. Just as any other player would immediately report his own mistake to the referee. The one who remains lying on the ground and causes a stoppage of play, although he has done nothing wrong, is not lying there at all. He has actually already got up again, the television pictures are deceptive. If he was lying there, he would have attempted to cheat, and there is simply no such thing as cheating.
The defender who holds his opponent’s jersey in the penalty area during a cross and thus gets the ball himself and the attacker doesn’t, naturally goes to the referee immediately after the action is over and says: “Hey, referee, are you blind? I was holding the man. That was against the rules and in the penalty area, you have to whistle a penalty, you whistle!”
Henry’s action is held up so high for a reason: it was a game-changing situation. And it was an action that led to a goal. Actions that mistakenly lead to a non-goal are never given much attention on the other side, no matter how obviously flawed. Last weekend alone, there were four match situations in the first and second Bundesliga that led to a goal not being given, all of which the panel of experts could not make out why these goals were not given. That is, they were correct goals. Not recognised, simply disallowed, without justification. But no one crows about it any more.
A given goal that was not correct? A catastrophe. A few years ago, when Markus Merk awarded a Bremen goal against Dortmund that was revealed to be irregular upon viewing the TV pictures, he didn’t just talk about a mistake, no, he didn’t just talk about a bad mistake, no, he didn’t just talk about his worst mistake in the last 10 years, no, he went on to write a 25-page paper in which he proposed rule changes to protect referees from “such serious mistakes in the future.”
Just note in this little story that in the 10 years he has given about 87 offsides which were clearly not offsides and has not given about 25 penalties where on Monday the kicker said “here he should have given a penalty, but he must have misjudged the situation…” or some other justification nonsense. Of the 87 offside mistakes, about 39 have or would have led to a goal (possibly decisive for the game), of the 25 penalties, about 16 could have tipped the game in favour of one team or the other, but all these mistakes are forgotten. Only the one counts. The one that led to a goal, which was irregular. He almost revoked his own whistle licence, that’s how bad it was.
You don’t really have to apply that to Henry. It was a goal that he scored, that he forced, and different laws apply there. You can cite a few more historical examples for comparison: Maradonna against England, semi-final World Cup 82. He wasn’t allowed to do that. No one is allowed to do that. And still blaspheme God. But Horst Heldt, who blocked a shot on the goal line with his hand and denies it when questioned by the referee? Surely that will be forgotten sooner? The reason: a goal compared to a non-goal.
Or who still remembers Manni Burgsmüller when he “threaded” the ball out of goalkeeper Gerry Ehrmann’s hand with his own hand and then pushed it into the orphaned goal? What was the media reaction to this abroad or when it became known? Domestically, Manni Burgsmüller was henceforth (or was that already the case?) regarded as a “chiseler”.
Thomas Helmer was even better in the Bayern-Nuremberg match. The famous phantom goal. He knows exactly that the ball was not in. But how exactly can you know something in our thoroughly rule-governed world? It doesn’t give you the slightest leeway to make your own decision. Helmer was awarded the goal and he began to cheer. “Well,” he thought to himself, “if the linesman saw the ball in, then it must have been in. Is it my place to criticise the assistant?” Spectators and teammates did the same. It was ruled goal, on to cheer. What chance would one have had?
And consider another consequence: Helmer goes to the referee and says that wasn’t a goal. It wasn’t over the line. Ok. The goal is not given? Big question mark!? You don’t know. Imagine a situation where it was a little less clear. The players start discussing with the referee. The opponents also join in the discussion. They agree on “no goal”? Or do they still do the big spectator poll?
Every defender who fouls his opponent would have to go to the referee and say he fouled him if the foul was not given. If Henry’s action had been on the halfway line and he had only claimed the ball like that to stop it going out and his team had retained possession. The game would have gone on with no consequences – other than possession changing back later. What would the people’s mind have found then? “Henry had saved the ball from going out of bounds with his hand at the halfway line in one scene, keeping his team in possession. And he didn’t even go to the referee to report this attempted cheating. Yet the TV pictures clearly prove that his hand was on the ball.” Even more: Imagine if he were to report it! What would the home spectators say then? The promising situation, the attack they are about to cheer, forcing the ball into the goal, is suddenly interrupted by a whistle. A repentant sinner stands at the halfway line with his head bowed and says that the ball is not his team’s to play.
(Funny still: later the TV pictures prove that he didn’t have his hand on the ball after all. He felt something else, got it off and thought it was the ball).
The consequence would be: at some point the referees would be abolished. Because all players would indicate their own mistakes. It would then look something like this: “I just fouled you. You get a free kick.” “No, don’t be crazy. You didn’t even touch me. That was a swallow by me and I’ll send myself off for it. Because I already did one and I didn’t tell you about it. Now I’m going to get a red for that too. At the same time, I’ll get a lifetime ban. Hehe, free kick for us. Fiddlesticks!”
Now two more serious questions should be raised:
1.) Is it even permissible to try to cheat?
2.) If one has made one, does one have to report it oneself?
If the answer to question 1 is “yes”, question 2 would be pointless, absurd. Because an attempt at fraud already includes the intention not to admit it afterwards. Otherwise it would not be an attempt to defraud but an attempt at self-pollution, but with a guarantee of certainty. I try to cheat in order to admit it immediately afterwards. In that sense, I have not even attempted it. But that only serves my conscience, if I have one, which has already been disproved beyond doubt. By confronting the attempt to deceive, however, I make sure that it is guaranteed to be noticed. It is a tautology. A self-proving statement, a sequence of statements, for all I care.
But if question two were answered “yes”, then question one would be meaningless. Definitely. Since one will concede, one will not. In that case, too, it is a tautology.
If one answers question 1 with “No”, question 2 is superfluous. Nothing done, nothing to admit. The pure, clean world.
So now there is only one possibility: question 1: “Yes”. Question 2: “No.” That’s the way the sly footballer’s soul is wired. That’s the truth. Every day, all over the world, in every stadium and in every game, attempts are made to deceive the referee, to gain advantages for oneself, to defeat the opponent “by any means necessary”. The complete (!) set of rules ensures that there is an appropriate and correct penalty for every action. There is no mention of “fair play”. This appeal, which it can be at best, is already obliterated by the multitude of regulations anyway. In addition, the media celebrates the winner and chops up the loser. There is no place in this world for losers anymore. “Taking part is everything” is anno dazumal, if it wasn’t just a pious saying in the first place. Entertainment through an exciting game with thanks to winners AND losers? When was the last time that happened? The first questions after a team’s defeat are directed at the coach. And I might as well become a reporter. Because they are always the same: “How long will you be in charge?” “Are you still reaching the team?” “Do you feel the confidence of the board?” “Why did your team lose?” Now, of course, I would be overwhelmed as a reporter. Because the answer sounds differentiated: “We had some good opportunities, but we didn’t use them. The opponent, on the other hand, used one of his opportunities. In addition, the referee wrongly whistled us back twice for offside. That was the difference today.” I’m starting to stutter. Because now there is more than one standard question. I vacillate between “Aren’t you making it too easy for yourself?” and “Can’t we talk about a lack of finishing, which has been a common thread throughout the whole season?”.
Today I read in the paper that the referee who allowed the goal plans(ed) to retire. “The 135 goals wrongly disallowed earlier in your career cannot remotely equal in total the damage you did with the one wrongly awarded goal. Resignation is the only correct decision. Kind regards from ex to ex colleague. Markus Merk.”
I have an absolutely all-encompassing, gigantic, powerful suggestion for all times: Do away with goals in football! The ball doesn’t go in anyway, if it does it’s guaranteed to have been a foul, sometimes a handball, and for purely visual purposes I could also imagine other decorations. All discussions are nipped in the bud. 0:0 is anyway my only answer to the question: “What’s the score in a football match?” Because it’s almost always 0:0. 8% of games already end 0:0. And the trend is upwards.
I personally plan to hold seminars for finished and prospective referees soon. Main lecture point: “If you as a referee and seminar participant have the slightest shadow of a doubt about the correction of a goal just scored: Blow the whistle, acknowledge it. Nothing can happen to you. If you have no shadow of a doubt about the legitimacy of a goal, if you just can’t figure out what could have been wrong with this goal and why on earth it could have been incorrect again, there is still a sure strategy to get away with it without any damage: Disallow this goal as well. It may be that your game mark is lowered from 2 to 3. But you will be able to cope with that. Because if it should happen to you just once in your career that you concede a goal that is subsequently proven to be irregular, even if it is only from the ninth camera perspective, with freeze frame or slow motion, then please hand in your papers immediately. There goes your career. There are certain mistakes you can only make once. The so-called deadly sins. This is one of them.”