Well, I was cheering for Ireland this week while my wife wanted France to win (for lesson planning reasons). What a shame that the winning goal was nothing of the sort, both offside and a double hand ball from Thierry Henry. Although, as my wife commented, the French are very good at the sport of handball; the men were Olympic gold medalists in Beijing.
Henry's comment after the match was "I will be honest, it was a handball. But I’m not the ref. I played it, the ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him," In other words, "It's not my fault guv, blame the ref!" (can be read with optional French accent if you prefer.)
Thierry went down in my estimations this week. Something that I'm sure won't bother him unduly, but here was a great player who lit up the Premiership and then... this. He knew it was handball and he kept it shut. What a shame. What a missed opportunity to be truly heroic.
Having said that, who's to say that none of us would have done the same thing? 70,000 French fans go ballistic because you have had a hand (I know) in the goal that put your team through to the World Cup Finals. Do you hold up your hand and confess? It would take some real guts to do that. What would you do? What would I do?
There was someone on the radio this morning who, I believe, hit the nail on the head. They were saying that in the nineteenth century sport was promoted as an activity that would develop character in people. The flip side of that is that sport also reveals your character. I discovered this nearly 25 years ago when I was a new Christian and playing Men's Hockey. I was aware that my language didn't fit my new profession of faith in the heat of battle.
I guess this is what is so sad about Henry's handball. It's revealed something of his character and it's not pretty. I'm glad that my flaws are not exposed so publicly. We sometimes say that sport is totally unimportant but perhaps we see exactly here why it is important. In a tight situation, it reveals who we are and what we are really like - the real me rather than the sanitised version I like to project in life and on blogs. It reminds us that we are not as great as we would like to think that we are. And that we need saving from ourselves.