According to the mission statement of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), football (soccer) is played by millions around the world and FIFA is the guardian of “this most cherished game.”
FIFA acknowledges that they have a tremendous responsibility, which doesn’t just include organizing the World Cup. It extends to “safeguarding the Laws of the Game. This is what we believe is the very essence of fair play and solidarity.”
FIFA’s “Fair Play” Campaign The Fair Play Campaign was introduced according to FIFA as “an indirect result of the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, when the handball goal by Diego Maradona stimulated the admirable reaction of the England coach, Sir Bobby Robson.”
“Fair Play has a fundamental role in sport and there is a need to apply it to all sporting activities, especially children’s activities. Children need strong values to grow up with, and football [soccer], being a team sport, makes them realize how essential discipline, respect, team spirit, and fair play are for the game and for life.”
The fair play campaign consists of ten golden rules, the first of which reads as follows:
“Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure. Playing fair requires courage and character. It is also more satisfying. Fair play always has its reward, even when the game is lost. Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame. Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly.”
FIFA has not been very vocal during this whole saga. They’ve only had two postings on their Web site relating to the incident. The first was a match report that hardly mentioned the Henry handball, which had a 1 out of 5 rating from the public. The second was a statement that said, “FIFA states that the result of the match cannot be changed and the match cannot be replayed. As is clearly mentioned in the Laws of the Game, during matches, decisions are taken by the referee and these decisions are final.”
The FAI lodged a complaint with FIFA. Their statement read, “Conclusive video evidence of a deliberate hand ball by Thierry Henry, which led to France’s additional time goal, has been seen by millions of football [soccer] fans worldwide.”
The FAI statement went on to point out a precedent for the invalidation of such results. In 2005, the FIFA World Cup organizing committee overturned the result of a World Cup qualification match between Uzbekistan and Bahrain on the basis of a “technical error by the referee of the match.”
“The Football Association of Ireland is hoping that FIFA and its Disciplinary Committee will, on behalf of football fans world-wide, act in a similar fashion so that the standards of fair play and integrity can be protected,” concluded the FAI statement.
The following day, the FAI confirmed that it received correspondence from FIFA, rejecting the Association’s request for a replay of the World Cup play-off match between France and the Republic of Ireland.
The FAI then contacted the French Football Fedaration (FFF). According to the FAI, the FFF responded that they would comply with whatever FIFA decided.
In the meantime both team captains called for a replay.
Irish captain Robby Keane said in his statement Friday afternoon, “On behalf of the Republic of Ireland players, I would like to thank Thierry Henry for his statement this afternoon [Friday] that in his opinion a replay would be the fairest option.
“As captain of the French team, to make such a statement took courage and honor, and all of us recognize that. As captain of the Republic of Ireland team, I would also be happy for a replay to happen in the interest of fair play so that whichever team qualifies, can do so with their heads held high. We can only hope that the French Football Federation might accept the wishes of both captains in the best interests of the game.”
But, on Saturday, Chief Executive of the FAI John Delaney said, “We regret that despite our best efforts for a replay, which would have restored the integrity of the game in front of a world-wide audience, our calls appear to have fallen on deaf ears at the French Football Federation.”
The Irish and French governments were also in close contact during this saga.