19 November 2009

Spot the Ball

And so France goes to the World Cup Finals, having beaten Ireland with a rather dubious goal, with two players offside and the ball having been judiciously handled.

As the Brother said on Twitter: spot the ball . . . it's a tricky one, but there's a trip to South Africa in it.

'I will be honest, it was a handball,' as M. Henry says, 'But I’m not the ref. I played it, the ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.'

Begging the age-old question of whether if a tree cheats in a forest, and the ref doesn't see the offence, has it still cheated?


David Lindsay said...

I don't follow football. But I do notice the re-emergence of political traditions assumed dead. Such as the idea that all these islands are essentially one nation, whose enemy is the French. Half right is a good start.

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

One swallow hardly makes a summer.

I'm baffled at this supposed 'tradition' of yours.

When do you imagine it previously existed? And for how long? It seems to me you'd need to demonstrate - not assert - both that there was a time when the Irish, English, Scots, and Welsh all believed themselves to be one nation, and that they also believed that they had a natural common enemy in France. That's a thesis I'd not like to have to argue...

As for its supposed reemergence, I think you'd have trouble finding many Irish people who'd sign up up to either strand of it.

Doc said...

Interesting. You make some good points, Thirsty, but I've seen a lot of Francophobia on Facebook today - from the normally sane and tolerant bunch of people I'd call my friends - sometimes shamefully excessive. The term most often repeated, interestingly, is the American coinage "cheese-eating surrender monkeys". This leads me to think that Francophobia is no longer rooted in an English failure to get over its wars (in this case, the Hundred Years War) and is instead a wider Anglophone phenomenon. Thoughts?

Doc said...

Incidentally, I had the profoundest sympathy for the Irish plight, until I read one comment someone posted: "We laughed at 1986 [i.e. Maradona's Hand of God goal]. Not so funny now is it?" Since then, even though I know the French are utterly in the wrong of this one, I've been finding it difficult to sympathise, and am finding the whole witch-hunt of Henry especially rather distasteful and redolent of hypocrisy and double standards - i.e. "it's not funny, because it didn't happen to England". Am I getting too sensitive on nationalist issues? Am I turning into an English patriot? The horror!

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

No, I don't buy that. Was there any trace of this in Ireland before, say, last week?

Yes, I've seen the Cheese Eating catchphrase, and also 'Hand of Frog', and these coming from people who'd spit before backing American or British conservatives in any way - remember what I said about Irish politics being deeply tribal?

These are words spoken in the heat of the moment, and I've no doubt that they'd be far stronger had we been playing England and, say, Lampard juggled the ball over to Rooney to set up a goal.

I would, however, be curious to find out how many of those snarling about this watch football normally, and if so how many of them are fans of English teams other than Arsenal, Henry having been, of course, one of Arsenal's stars. Arsenal are regularly sneered at by their rivals as being a French side in an English league, and I think that phenomenon may be fuelling this.

Er, that's Ireland.

As for the world in general, I'm not sure. You've got me thinking, but I've deleted the fruits of my musings: I think they'd be better as an actual post in a day or two.

Anonymous said...

i am scottish but have been living here in france since 1976--may i point out that contrary to england,ireland and wales,scotland has always had very close ties with france(the auld allianve,for example) and yes the french goal should never have been allowed,but everybody as you ay laughed about "maradonna's goal" what would you have said if by chance ,ireland beat france via a "hand goal"??

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

To be fair, Ireland has always had ties with France. We've always believed that Patrick trained as a priest there, and consequently in the penal era it was in France that most of Ireland's priests were trained. 1798, the year of the United Irishmen rebellion, is still recalled as The Year of the French, and even now we tend to chummy up to them in European politics, largely because we both sup at the same CAP trough.

That aside, I think it's impossible to have said how the Irish would have responded had we qualified via a handball, and in a sense it's irrelevant. It didn't happen, so discussion of the question is pointless.

It is, however, worth bearing in mind that the French newspapers, in polling after the match, showed a great sense of embarrassment among the French people, with the vast majority of those polled recognising that that wasn't a goal, and suitably ashamed to have been rewarded for such cheating with what they felt was an undeserved place in the World Cup finals.

It's probably worth keeping in mind too that this wasn't just a handball - you'll not understand the ire if you do that. The common feeling before the match was that FIFA had changed the rules over the course of the competition to favour the bigger nations, so, not having decreed at the start that this stage would be seeded, it was seeded once the likes of France failed to win their groups. Can you imagine if they did that in the finals too, so that seeded teams took precedence over unseeded ones in working out who played who in the quarter finals?

To that you need to add the fact that this was the only one of the four ties where the seeded team was granted home advantage in the second leg. I don't think that should be that big a deal, but a lot of others did. They felt it looked as though FIFA wanted France in the tournament no matter what.

And then you have the goal where two French players were offside, the ball was handled twice, and the linesman had a clear line of sight for this.

So put it together, and you might grasp the ire:
1. Changing the rules on the spot to favour bigger teams.
2. France being the only bigger team to be granted home advantage in the second leg.
3. A Frenchman offside and
4. A second Frenchman offside and
5. A French handball and
6. A second French handball leading to the goal and
7. The linesman had a clear view and
8. It was all clearly on camera

I'm not nearly as annoyed as other people, but I can see where they're coming from. I rather feel that had Ireland benefitted from this I'd be as ashamed as most French people said they were.