Thursday, 19 June 2014

Never forget "the hand of frog"

The world cup is in full swing I have to say, I find it pretty exciting this year. I'm not a big football fan, but I do like cheering for my national team. And so far, France isn't doing too bad.

The good thing is, there is no fight in the house over which country to support because Ireland and Mauritius didn't make it to the tournament. Only Ethan keeps shouting "Come on Ireland" every time he sees a game on TV, but he's clearly too young to understand what's going on (or he really is more Irish than French, which is a possibility).

I'm actually disappointed that Ireland didn't qualify for the world cup as I think it's great to be able to cheer for more than one country, but at least they didn't qualify fair and square this time. I can't say the same about the last world cup qualifiers, when Ireland played France in 2009.

They have played against each other a few times and the atmosphere is usually friendly,  whatever the result. I generally find Irish people quite fair-play, and most of time I try to play it down if France wins. The last thing I want to do is to be perceived as the stereotyped arrogant French person.

But that 2009 match just changed everything. We were all watching the game at home, with my Irish neighbours. Everything was going well until Thierry Henry controlled the ball with his hand, before passing it on to another player who scored a goal, all that during extra-time. The game ended up in a draw, but France having won the first leg, went on to qualify for the World Cup instead of Ireland.

My first thought? They're going to kill me at work tomorrow. And I was right. Everybody was pissed off with Thierry Henry, and me being French, I was the next best thing they could be angry at. I don't think I ever got so much slagging in my life than that day, and the following day, and the one after that... And even now, I still get the occasional joke. Sometimes to cut an argument short my manager would just say : " I'll have two words for you : Thierry Henry"!

I genuinely felt bad for Ireland, I think the match should have been replayed but that's what you get when there's no video to help the referees, like in Rugby for example. The only thing that made me feel better for Ireland is that France did very poorly in that World cup, not even going through the first round. So they kind of got their revenge.

Since Thierry Henry doesn't play anymore, the jokes and the slagging have eased off a bit. But something happened last Saturday that re-opened the wound. Henry is now a commentator for the BBC and he was talking about the England game and some possible hand ball by an English player. When the presenter asked him as a joke " Ever got away with a handball?", he laughed and replied "No, never...".

This "joke" caused a bit of a fury amongst Irish fans in social media, and it made me realise that Irish people are still holding a grudge. This morning at work, I asked a colleague who he was supporting in the World cup:
" Since Ireland is not in, I'll probably support Germany"
" Seriously ? The Germans ??!! Come on, you should support France!"
" No way, that cheating b***** deprived us of the World Cup the last time!"
" It was 5 years ago, you have to let it go at some stage..."
" No. We, Irish people, forgive; but we NEVER FORGET"
If there is some sort of forgiveness, is it a step in the right direction? I hope so, because I don't think I'll be able to handle the slagging any longer!