LONDON, December 2 – France captain Thierry Henry was not behaving immorally when he deliberately handled the ball twice to set up the goal that eliminated the Republic of Ireland from the 2010 World Cup finals said former French coach Gerard Houllier on Tuesday.
The 62-year-old – a failure as national coach seeing France miss out on the 1994 World Cup finals losing their last two matches both at home to lowly Israel and then Bulgaria in the last minute – said that Henry’s action during last month’s play-off second leg match was not cheating.
"He didn’t cheat. It was instinctive," Houllier told BBC radio.
"A lot of the former players in France have condemned what Thierry has done but, at the same time, they said they would have done the same.
"He didn’t cross the ball with his hand, he put the ball in on his foot. It’s the referee’s error," added Houllier, who is now techinical director for the French Football Federation.
Houllier, who has enjoyed more success at club level first with Liverpool where he won five trophies and then at Lyon, said the Henry he knew would not do something like that deliberately and in any case the Irish would not have qualified even if the match had stayed at 1-0 in their favour as it would have gone to penalties.
"Thierry is too honest a person to have done this immorally. It was not premeditated," said Houllier.
"I don’t think he’ll be punished and even if the goal had not been allowed, they (the Irish) would not have qualified. It would have gone to penalties."
The sport’s governing body FIFA’s executive committee will meet on Wednesday in Cape Town, South Africa, to consider the incident as part of a disciplinary crackdown.
FIFA could put also more assistant referees on the fields during the World Cup, their president Sepp Blatter said.
"We’ll make a decision to have additional officials for the World Cup or not. This is open," he said.