The lines above from Newbolt's famous poem were used as propaganda to tell the world that the British Empire always played the game i.e. would never cheat; it was of course a crock of bulldung; the sentiment that is not the poem.
Technology similar to that used in tennis and cricket would have certainly disallowed France’s winning goal in the World Cup play off with Ireland; Thiere Henry’s pass for the goal was certainly preceded by a hand ball. There is now a clamour for the game to be replayed; this is understandable from the fans and players but not from those who should know better; those who are responsible for the rules should know that the precedent that it would set would turn every game into a farce. Does Henry deserve to now carry the label of cheat? I don’t believe he does; he certainly committed a deliberate foul and he got away with it but he is not a cheat. I regard a cheat as someone who decides consciously to cheat before any opportunity happens in a game; the prime number one example of this is Sir Alex Ferguson; he has a deliberate policy of intimidating officials to gain unfair advantage for his team; he has been doing this for years and the only word for it is cheating and in his case it’s premeditated. The legendary Angelo Dundee deliberately cutting a rip in the then Cassius Clay’s glove to buy time when he was dazed after Henry Cooper knocked him down was premeditated cheating while Mike Tyson biting off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear is a foul but not premeditated cheating; OK an extreme example but that’s how I see it.
Henry’s reaction was instinctive; in a fraction of a second he handled a ball which was going out of play and missing the goal by inches; this was an instinctive reaction not in any way planned by a great player and a true sportsman he has always been a model to look up to and I hope he survives this with his reputation safe. I will always remember him facing down a crowd of rabid bastards who were giving the black French players racist abuse when they played Spain. He scored a goal and then did something which I think was premeditated; his team mates strangely did not rush to congratulate him; he walked slowly over to his abusers and stood arms akimbo and head held high and stared at them. with unconcealed contempt he gazed at them for about 10 secs. a defiant figure of grace, power, courage and pride; he then turned to be greeted by his team mates; absolutely electrifying; time stood still.
The simple fact is that these things happen in most sports; many Scots. football fans were in denial when Joe Jordan handled the ball against Wales and Scotland were incredibly given a penalty; big Joe knew it was taking Scotland to the world cup and kept shtum it took some fans years to admit that he had cheated. The great Maradona did something similar to England on the way to knocking them out of the world cup; he still claims it was God’s hand and not his; the fact that he scored a genuine wonder goal later in the game merely rubbed salt into English wounds and many many Scots. of the moron variety still cheer when they see it now on Tele.
Unless and until technology is introduced (as it will be) we will have to continue with the rule we all learned as kids “the referee is always right; even when he is wrong he’s right” OK. France were lucky on two counts in Paris the other night 1/ they were fortunate to beat an Irish team who matched and often outplayed them against the odds and every prediction and 2/ in more general terms they were lucky that it was Ireland who were the victims of such misfortune. The Irish fans in their thousands in the face of terrible treatment and in the play off for the World Cup and in extra time took it on the chin; I can think of other fans who would have left their mark on Paris had it happened to them and it would not have been pretty, well done Ireland and well done the Irish fans.
At the risk of upsetting my Rugby Friends I will comment on Ireland V Australia ; don’t worry I didn’t watch the game; only the last ten minutes and guess what they were a very exciting ten minutes. The excitement did not entirely come from the play; it came from the closeness of the score and the fight against the clock by the Irish. These guys seemed to do very little except wrestle with each other and I thought sometimes the tele. picture had frozen; it was like the taxi rank at County Square late Friday night; then the drama which only sport can supply happened. With 20 secs. Left this bloke called O’Driscoll for Ireland took a pass and ran through a big gap and planted the ball between the posts; then someone; maybe him; booted the kick over the bar to reach a score of 20 – 20 with 2/3 secs. left an incredible finish so; if they can find a way to make the rest of the game as exciting as this I might go and watch it; I’ve given up looking for skill but this was good fun; it has not been all bad for the Irish this week.