Le Hand of God

The fall-out of last night’s France-Ireland World Cup Play-off match will continue to reverberate around: The BBC currently has a live news feed, the type of thing reserved for actual football matches. At 2pm Ireland will make a statement, apparently, but of course all focus remains on UEFA and FIFA reactions – both of whom are firmly tight lipped over the episode.

The calls are there, for video technology, and all sorts of reforms, but there does appear to be something somewhat forgotten in all of this: Ireland were not heading into the World Cup but for Henry’s handball. Henry’s handball moment came minutes after France were denied what to many was a clear penalty and furthermore, had the “goal” not happened, Ireland still needed to put the ball in the net themselves to make it to South Africa, or triumph in the lottery of a penalty shoot-out. So it’s a little strong to say that this one decision cost Ireland all those potential millions.

Football is a fluid game with one controversy after another, and much of that is what makes the game such a money spinner for many: The BBC and other more commercial news outlets would be having many less hits today had the game been conventional and boring, with video technology ruling the goal out.

The interesting thing naturally is the conspiracy theorists: France were seeded in the play-offs, ensuring they didn’t face Portugal or Russia, the other big nations in the play-offs. Then they got the awful decision in their favour, as opposed to Ireland. Many English Premiership watchers notice that Manchester United and Liverpool always get the decisions in their favour, particular at home. But is this just a perception, given our cognitive abilities, or a general statistical pattern? I feel a research idea blossoming…

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