DUBLIN—Ireland’s defeat in Paris last Wednesday to an extra time goal scored by France’s William Gallas, was a bitter pill to swallow when it transpired that Thierry Henry had handled the ball twice prior to passing to Gallas. This event has created a firestorm of controversy not limited to simply soccer communities in Ireland and France but the sports community across the globe.
For the majority of Irish fans, win, lose, or draw they have a great time supporting their country; however this incident has struck a nerve.
Ireland is currently experiencing a lot of pain with respect to the global economic slowdown. The government has had to make dramatic cuts in spending; for many the national team’s World Cup campaign was a welcomed distraction.
Just before 2 p.m. in Dublin on Saturday, the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) issued a statement saying that they had done all they could to force a replay. However, another much more vocal group was meeting outside Lansdowne Road Stadium and they were going to march to the nearby French embassy on Ailesbury Road, in a show of support for fair play in soccer—and perhaps get a replay.
Those involved were members of what has been described as the fastest growing Facebook group in the history.
The group is called “Petition to have IRELAND vs FRANCE REPLAYED!!!” and the group was set up shortly after the game by Kev Storrs. By lunchtime Saturday, they had around 300,000 members. Now there are over 400,000.
The site says that another member group is going to organize a similar event in Sydney Australia. The site has this statement: “We may not have got our replay, but once we hit half a million people, we will present this petition to FIFA and demand the introduction of video referee’ing so this does NOT happen again to another team.”
A modest turnout of a few hundred sang their way to the French embassy. They sounded like thousands and all were having fun while also making a point. I spoke with several members who marched in Dublin, the majority of whom were there with their families. Parents, children, and grandparents all turned up to voice their concerns about what had transpired last Wednesday evening.
Richard Lee from Cork said he was getting involved in a effort to support fairplay. “In the long run we want to see video replay introduced into soccer, make it cleaner and fairer for everyone.”
Shane Carroll, 25, from Dublin was with his two sons and his father, “You don’t mind losing. But when you are trying to teach your four-year-old kid not to cheat while playing football [soccer], and he’s watching this on the television, it is a very hard thing to swallow.”
Maraid O’Connell from Ballinteer who was with her husband, mother, two daughters, and son said, “We are here as a family to protest. I think we have to be seen to be showing how we feel, because if we do nothing this will continue. It’s just not right, simple as that.”
Tom O’Brien from Mayo who traveled with his family said, “There should be fair play and there is not fair play. Ireland are also missing out on a great economic opportunity to go to the World Cup. It would be great for the morale of the country too. Hopefully video evidence will be brought in now and stop this nonsense.”
Vincent Lavery from Dublin who recently returned to Ireland after living in Fresno, California for 50 years where he was a high school teacher and also taught soccer said, “I’m here today because an injustice has been perpetrated on not just the Irish people and the Irish team but on the entire earth, to the degree that this is a global issue. One billion people regularly play this game. We need a resolution to show that cheating is not allowed to happen without punishment.”