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Henry: I told Irish players I handled ball and I was vilified by press

‘I spoke honestly – it was a reflex. A reflex by a competitor, just like when you reach out for the ball on the line when your goalkeeper is beaten.’

Henry with a devastated Richard Dunne.
Henry with a devastated Richard Dunne.

THIERRY HENRY SAYS the reaction to his infamous handball against Republic of Ireland was unfairly hysterical, claiming that when Lionel Messi was involved in a similar incident, he was labelled “a genius”, whereas it was if he had “killed someone”.

The former France international used his hand to control a cross during the second leg of his country’s 2010 World Cup qualification play-off with the Irish in Paris before teeing up William Gallas for a goal that saw Les Bleus book their berth in South Africa courtesy of a 2-1 aggregate win.

Henry was vilified for his perceived dishonesty both by the press and his peers but he pointed out that former Barcelona team-mate Messi did not have his character called into question after scoring with the aid of his hand in a game against Espanyol in 2007.

“You are talking about people I spent so many times on the pitch with,” he told Canal Plus. ”I just said to them, ‘Yes, it was hand, I’m sorry.’ And you know what? They told me: ‘We don’t blame you.’

“I saw Liam Brady, the Arsenal legend, and he asked me: ‘Did you touch it with your hand?’ And I answered, ‘Yes, it was my hand.’ I spoke to the press that night. I could have ignored them but I didn’t.

“I spoke honestly – it was a reflex. A reflex by a competitor, just like when you reach out for the ball on the line when your goalkeeper is beaten.

“When I see Messi scoring against Espanyol, diving to touch the ball with his hand, people say, ‘What a genius, now he is closer than ever to Maradona.’ But when it was me, it was like I had killed someone.”

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