It was 18th November 2009 and both Republic of Ireland and France both had to play-off if they wanted to reach South Africa in 2010. Four days earlier at Croke Park, Dublin, Nicolas Anelka had scored the only goal in the first leg in front of over 74,000 spectators. At Stade de France in front of 75,000, Robbie Keane scored to level the series and take the tie to 30 minutes extra time.
French captain Thierry Henry handled the ball TWICE in quick succession and William Gallas received the ball and scored; 2-1 on aggregate. Henry had his hand up but didn't shoot !!! The FAI protested against the result and Swedish referee Martin Hansson and his assistant did not call the foul. They wanted a reply or even an unprecedented 33rd spot!! Thankfully it was denied. As we saw there were enough lousy teams on show in 2010. France were a DISASTER in South Africa.
Credit to one of my favourite African newspapers, Mail & Guardian. www.mg.co.za. for breaking the story that FAI was 'loaned' 5 million Euros to prevent legal action. It was used for the new AVIVA Stadium and FIFA cancelled the agreement so it was never repaid. FAI CEO John Delaney, who is paid over 350,00 Euros annually plus a large car and discounts to RIVERDANCE concerts, negotiated the FIFA deal in 4 days over a weekend!!! On Sunday Ireland 'welcome' England in a friendly at AVIVA. The last match with the Three Lions at the old Landsdowne Road was abandoned in the first half on 15th February 1995 by Dutch referee Dick Jol. English hooligans, led by COMBAT 18 right wing group rioted. Look for some amusing new chants this weekend.
Many have called the 5 million Euro payment 'SHAMEFUL' and as it was a pure referee decision it could not be appealed. In Frankfurt in 1974 just prior to the opening of the World Cup I was in the Convention Centre for the 39th FIFA Congress with 122 countries voting. Joao Havelange was challenging incumbent Sir Stanley Rous. He had taken money without auorization from the Brazilian Olympic Committee and promised payments for 'travel expenses' for delegates.
It went to the second vote. I was at the back of the room and Sir Stanley came and sat in a spare chair next to me to collect his thoughts. In a straight second vote he lost by 68-52 and we had to endure the Brazilian crook for the next 24 years!!....before the next shameful crook for 17 years.
One surprise Havelange vote was from FAI. The Brazilian had arranged a lucrative three match South American tour for Ireland. Brazil 2-Ireland 1, 75,000 in Maracana; Uruguay 2-Ireland 0 Centenario, Montevideo; Chile 1-Ireland 2 Estadio Nacional,Santiago. It was basically a League of Ireland team but plenty of seats on the plane for blazers!