Former Chelsea and Arsenal defender William Gallas has revealed that the handball that resulted in Ireland not making the 2009 World Cup was the fault of the referee and not the players in question.
The Republic of Ireland vs. France two-legged football play-off took place in November 2009 in a game that decided who would go to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The first match in Dublin ended 1–0 in favour of France, with Nicolas Anelka scoring the only goal of the game.
In the second leg in Paris, Ireland won 1–0, with Robbie Keane scoring. The second leg went to extra time. However, a controversial goal by Gallas from Thierry Henry's double handball allowed France to win 2-1 on aggregate and advance to the World Cup.
After admitting to handling the ball illegally, Thierry Henry faced accusations of cheating, prompting calls from Irish authorities to FIFA for a replay or Ireland's inclusion in the World Cup. The controversy reignited discussions on fair play and video refereeing. FIFA initiated an inquiry but didn't implement changes for the 2010 World Cup. Henry faced scrutiny but wasn't sanctioned. The incident sparked reflection on fair play and officiating in football.
Since then, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has been introduced to football and has created huge problems because of its use and errors in the game.
Gallas, who scored the controversial goal, revealed that the French players celebrated in the dressing room, having not known what initially happened. When they did find out, they pointed the finger at Swedish match referee Martin Hansson for his error in the game.
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“I knew it when I went back to the dressing room at the end of the game. On the pitch, I didn’t know it was a handball, so when I was in the box, I scored the goal. It was very important that we qualified for South Africa by playing the match in France. To play at the World Cup was so important in my career, and I was so excited on the pitch. When we went back to the dressing room, we were celebrating and that was when we heard that the referee didn’t see the handball," said Gallas to Genting Casino.
“It was the mistake of the referee, and that’s why we’re seeing more technology in football, and normally it would have been VAR looking at that situation. As a fan, when you are watching some games, you can be frustrated because referees are making mistakes and not using the technology when it’s needed."
Gallas also referenced VAR and its problems and claimed that an explanation of decisions needs to happen for the technology to work in football.
“We saw this from Virgil van Dijk and his challenge to Christopher Nkunku. I didn’t understand why the referee didn’t use VAR. Even if Liverpool deserved to win, they were much better than Chelsea, but in that situation, as a fan, you can be very frustrated. The referees have to explain in that situation why they didn’t use VAR.”
Gallas' old club Chelsea play Crystal Palace on Monday. That game kicks off at 8p.m.