They have a code of Fair Play. Now they have an opportunity to apply it. Will FIFA do it?
Millions of children watched cheating win last night when a French player handled the ball twice to create the winning goal and throw Ireland out of the World Cup 2010. FIFA have a rare opportunity to help kids know that Fair Play prevails over cheating. We are at the end of an era in football when games are played without video replay facilities for referees (rugby union and many other sports use it successfully to ensure correct decisions are made). So it would be a fitting end to the era to call for a replay. THE FAI have also asked for a replay against France .
There is precedent. FIFA forced a World Cup replay between Bahrain and Uzbekistan in a World Cup play-off for a mistake made on a penalty kick in 2005 so it is possible (albeit a different type of referee’s mistake). Also a truly great French football manager (who managed Henry) once insisted on offering a replay after winning an FA Cup match by ‘improper means’ in 1999 against Sheffield United. Full story is in Great Moments Of Sportsmanship pp.126-128. The French manager has the opportunity to do likewise. He and France would be remembered forever more in the world of football as truly noble sportsmen, elevating them into superheroes for kids all over the world.
Another Frenchman, Philippe Sella, a classy rugby international when told that France would get a by into the final of the World Rugby Cup if their semi final was abandoned (because of weather), said the team would not accept this way of winning.
So there are true heroes out there. They revel in an honest contest. Come on France – show us your noble honour once again; let fair play prevail; do battle with Ireland once more and become instantaneous immortal sports heroes for children all over the world.