Were Ireland in on the plot?
Fri Nov 20 09:07AM
Cheatgate, day two, and the sheer scale of the plot to deny Ireland a place at the World Cup becomes ever more apparent.
There are so many guilty parties, a millipede would struggle to point the finger at all of them.
Blame Thierry Henry for handling the ball then refusing to fess up (but didn't he show lovely technique to kill the ball dead with his first touch, then caress it onto his right foot with his second?).
Blame William Gallas for not 'doing a Paolo Di Canio' when the ball came across to him (no, not a fascist salute, that thing where he caught the ball and stopped play).
Blame the referee for not spotting the infringement, blame his linesman for not flagging offside and blame the fourth official for not having a quiet word in the ref's ear.
Blame FIFA for refusing to sanction a replay, for seeding the draw in France's favour, for failing to introduce video technology and for Sepp Blatter's smug, bloated face.
Blame Michel Platini for... well, for being French. Robbie Keane said Platini and Blatter would have been sending each other congratulatory texts. Nonsense. They have flunkies to do that sort of thing for them.
Blame World Cup sponsors Adidas, whose teams - according to Damien Duff - FIFA are desperate to have at the big party.
Early Doors would also suggest blaming the Irish defence for not heading away what looked an innocuous free-kick. Without their uncertainty, Henry could never have executed the dastardly plan.
Which begs the question: were the Irish in on the whole thing?
Did the game take place at all, or was it filmed in a studio in Area 51? Who was driving the white Fiat Uno that played Henry onside, and why was there a grassy knoll obscuring the referee's view of the handball?
There is so much anger, what was essentially just some foul play and a refereeing mistake has turned into a giant, sprawling conspiracy.
But if football's powermongers had the ability to fix the World Cup, how do you explain the existence of a fixture guaranteeing either Greece or Ukraine qualified?
And if Wednesday's game in Paris was stage-managed, wouldn't a routine 1-0 win to the French have been easier to pull off, rather than the forces of evil waiting until the 109th minute before exerting their malign influence? Or couldn't they have just awarded France a penalty for Shay Given's borderline challenge on Nicolas Anelka?
The FA of Ireland demanded a replay, making a rather transparent attempt to persuade FIFA the soul of football was at stake, not merely their chances of going to the World Cup.
Almost at the same instant, Giovanni Trapattoni injected an element of sanity, admitting a replay was "impossible" and focusing instead on the tangential issue of whether they should have been playing extra time at all.
Henry's subdued celebrations at the end of the game did not stem from guilt, but from a certain knowledge that he would be slaughtered.
We all love a public hanging, and ex-players, managers, pundits and white van men duly lined up to condemn him.
Even Arsene Wenger, the man who made Henry great, and who recently headed a vociferous and perplexingly successful defence of Eduardo da Silva, said he should have owned up.
Henry is a man who spent years taking flak for trying to score the perfect goal, and valuing style over substance, who finally signed up to the win-at-all-costs creed, who kicked the beautiful game square in the breadbasket and who tarnished his years of brilliance with a moment of subterfuge.
It's almost like something out of a Greek tragedy, and with a similar setting - you could probably mistake St Denis for Hades.
Henry is described in today's papers as 'repulsive', 'le cheat', 'sickening', 'seedy', 'a pariah', 'a figure of hatred and ridicule', and - thanks to the Daily Star for this one - 'a twit'.
Irish fury is completely understandable, but the feeding frenzy of moral outrage in the British press could not be less dignified if it necked 20 Bacardi Breezers and staggered through the streets of Cardiff with its knickers round its ankles.