The AnswersThatWork Blog

Saturday, 21st November 2009


From Battiston to Henry, via Maradona :  the greatest injustices in World Cup football ?

On Wednesday 18-Nov-2009 in Paris France qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa courtesy of the greatest injustice in Word Cup soccer :  Thierry Henry handled the ball twice to control it and then send a cross over to William Gallas who scored the equalizer on the night, and the winning goal over the two matches of this World Cup play-off.

As the Irish clamour :  this is the greatest injustice in World Cup football, Thierry Henry should walk in shame for the rest of his life and the match should be replayed.  Even Thierry Henry thinks that in fairness the match should be replayed.  FIFA say the match cannot be replayed, and the French Football Federation say they will not offer a replay.

On 22-June-1986, in Mexico City, in the 1986 World Cup, Diego Maradona, the World's second greatest footballer ever, scored a goal against England with his hand — this is the famous Hand of God incident.  That goal paved the way for a 2-0 victory by Argentina.  In England that incident is still considered the greatest injustice in World Cup football.

Now, let's put things in perspective :  Ireland suffered its greatest injustice in a play-off game to go to the World Cup.  In contrast England suffered its greatest injustice in a quarter final of an actual World Cup.  So, now, tell me which one is REALLY the greatest injustice in World Cup football ?

Hmmmm :  play-off vs quarter final ?  Hmmmm.

OK.  Let's go to 4 years before Diego.  In France, every time there is a World Cup injustice, we get endless replays of what, in my mind, is the most shocking refereeing mistake I've ever seen on TV.  Four years before Diego, in Seville, in one of the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup in Spain, France was at 1-1 against Germany.  In the 65th minute, Patrick Battiston who had only just come on as substitute, was clear on goal and was smashed into by the German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher in what can best be described as a kung-fu move to the head to take the man out (watch the video — the ball is at Battiston's feet).  Battiston was knocked unconscious, slipping into coma, 3 of his teeth knocked out, broken vertebrae, no pulse, was temporarily not breathing, and owed his life to being fed oxygen on the pitch.  Battiston never woke up on the pitch.  This should have been a red card, + a penalty, + a 6-month ban for Schumacher for an action that would warrant instant police arrest on any city street.  None of this happened and a shell-shocked France team (Platini said after the match :  "I thought Battiston was dead !") went on to lose the semi-final on penalty with the scores locked at 3-3 after extra time.

Now, do you still wonder why the French Football Federation said this week that while they sympathize with Ireland for what they acknowledge was a clear refereeing mistake, they do not want to offer a replay because "we too, France, have been on the wrong end of terrible referee mistakes in the past" !

So, Play-off vs Quarter-Final vs Semi-Final of the World Cup.  Which one is the greatest injustice in World Cup football ever ?

I'll tell you.  As a French person this one is easy for me :  the non-introduction of video assistance for referees after the shocking Battiston vs Schumacher assault of 1982.  That is the greatest injustice in World Cup football — it is a 27-year World Cup football injustice.  Right there, in 1982, after having witnessed possibly the worst refereeing mistake of any World Cup, when slow motion already existed, when Live TV had been a reality for some time, FIFA stood still, and they have been standing still ever since, and when you stand still for 27 years it means one thing only — you're going backwards fast !

So, let's see if FIFA have a leg to stand on.  FIFA's main line of defence has been that it would disrupt the game too much.  Hmmm.  At an average of one goalmouth and one red card contentious decision per game (remember, most goals and red cards are NOT contentious) and 1.5 minutes per video replay, this is 3 minutes per game, or less than the added time at the end of most games.  Hmmm, has all this misunderstanding simply been about the fact that the FIFA leaders each need desk calculators ?

The overwhelming majority, and I am saying  o.v.e.r.w.h.e.l.m.i.n.g  majority of football managers worldwide want video evidence and have all made compelling points for the introduction of video assistance, and this week's match between France and Ireland has brought the issue back in the forefront of every soccer lover's mind but, for me, the best argument for the introduction of video assistance is the one I heard today :  "Nowadays, an Irish supporter can be behind Ireland's goals, film the goal action with his zoom equipped cellphone, instantly send by text to Dublin his image of Thierry Henry's hand infringement, and his friend back home in Ireland can be viewing Thierry's handball during the 45 seconds that the referee is still arguing with Robbie Keane and Shay Given that the goal will stand, and that same cellphone video clip will be on YouTube before Ireland restarted the match at 1-1 !".

Now, Mesdames et Messieurs, isn't that the best justification for the introduction of video assistance in soccer that you've ever read ?

Yes, I thought so.  So, now you can play your part in making right the longest injustice in world sport, you can play your part in making FIFA change its stance before the 2010 World Cup by emailing this page,, to or by pasting the content of this blog on this form :

After all, we wouldn't want France vs South Africa in the final of the World Cup next year, in the 89th minute, Nicolas Anelka clear on goal, in the penalty area, Piennaar hacking him down, and the referee giving a penalty to South Africa at the other end of the pitch, would we ?

Play your part in changing history !

Spread the word....


—— (TUT) SpaceMan

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