Ireland cries foul over the 'Hand of Frog'

THE Irish government has demanded a re-run of Ireland's World Cup play-off with France after Thierry Henry admitted he handled the ball before setting up the winning goal.

Shaving firm Gillette was under pressure to sack Henry from its advertising campaign after the striker's blatant handball gave France a place at next year's finals in South Africa.

Sports fans and fellow professionals the world over turned on the star, who enjoys a global profile, partly due to his contract with Gillette alongside Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.

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Irish justice minister Dermot Ahern demanded a rematch in the interests of fair play. He said: "They probably won't grant it as we are minnows in world football, but let's put them on the spot. It's the least we owe the thousands of devastated young fans around the country.

"Otherwise, if that result remains, it reinforces the view that if you cheat, you will win."

The Irish FA also demanded a rematch last night, saying football's world governing body, Fifa, had overturned an international result in 2005 after a "technical error" by a referee.

Chief executive John Delaney said: "If Fifa believe in fair play and integrity, this is their opportunity to step forward."

As he left the pitch, Henry, who plays for Barcelona, freely admitted he handled the ball before hooking it back across the goalmouth to be headed in by William Gallas, his former Arsenal team-mate.

• Referee Martin Hansson, who missed the incident, was targeted

In Zurich, a Fifa spokesman dismissed the chances of a replay, pointing out that, under the rule of the game, the referee's decisions were final – including the score of the game.

Ireland captain Robbie Keane said the Fifa boss, Sepp Blatter, and Michel Platini, head of European governing body Uefa, would be delighted with the outcome. He said: "They're all probably clapping hands, Platini sitting up there on the phone to Sepp Blatter, probably texting each other, delighted with the result."

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Henry, whose Facebook and Wikipedia entries were defaced by angry Irish fans, insisted he had not tried to deceive anyone.

"The ball hit my hand, I will be honest," he said. "It was a handball, you can clearly see it. (Sebastien] Squillaci went to jump with two Irish players, I was behind him and the next thing I know the ball hit my hand. It was a handball, but I'm not the ref."

Yesterday, the internet was deluged with mock pictures of Henry, showing him with outsized hands calling him an "epic cheat…the Hand of Frog".

• Henry was also portrayed on the net as a handball player

Former Liverpool and Ireland player John Aldridge said: "Should they ban him? Definitely. It's the biggest talking point in the World Cup since Diego Maradona handled against England in 1986. And to think he makes adverts with Tiger Woods and Roger Federer – Gillette would have every right if they decided to sack him."

When Gillette launched its champions campaign in 2007, the US company said it had picked Henry because he embodied "true sporting values". The company was standing by their star last night. A spokesman said: "This is not going to affect our relationship with him."

• This version mimics rapper Kanye West's intervention of the MTV Video awards.

• Henry was also portrayed as a basketball player

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