LONDON: FIFA have confirmed they made a $5 million payment to the Football Association of Ireland after Thierry Henry’s handball stopped Ireland qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
Details of the deal first emerged in an interview FAI chief executive John Delaney gave to RTE Radio 1 on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
“We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup play-off hadn’t worked out for us with the Henry handball,” Delaney said.
“We came to an agreement. That was a Thursday and on Monday, the agreement was all signed and all done. It was a payment to the association to not proceed with a legal case.”
FIFA later issued a statement explaining: “While the referee’s decision is final, and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) ultimately accepted it as such, in January 2010 FIFA entered into an agreement with FAI in order to put an end to any claims against FIFA.
“FIFA granted FAI a loan of USD 5 million for the construction of a stadium in Ireland. At the same time, UEFA also granted the FAI funds for the same stadium.
“The terms agreed between FIFA and the FAI were that the loan would be reimbursed if Ireland qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
“Ireland did not so qualify. Because of this, and in view of the FAI’s financial situation, FIFA decided to write off the loan as per 31 December 2014.”
France qualified for the 2010 World Cup at Ireland’s expense after Henry blatantly handled the ball as he set up William Gallas for the decisive goal in a play-off match in Paris in November 2009.
Delaney’s claim comes amid a corruption scandal engulfing FIFA that has seen FIFA executives arrested, president Sepp Blatter announce his resignation and former executive committee member Chuck Blazer admit to paying bribes.
Delaney said that Blatter’s behavior at the Soccerex football conference in Johannesburg 11 days after the match had hardened his resolve over the matter of compensation.
“The way Blatter behaved, if you remember on stage, having a snigger and having a laugh at us…” he said.
“That day when I went in (to discuss the agreement), and I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used.”
Henry was derided as a cheat in the aftermath of the match at the Stade de France, which ended in a 1-1 draw that saw France win 2-1 on aggregate.
The FAI and the Irish government unsuccessfully petitioned world governing body FIFA for the game to be replayed or for Ireland to be admitted to the World Cup in South Africa as a ’33rd team’.
Henry, then with Barcelona, backed Ireland’s calls for a replay and declared himself “extremely sorry”, but rejected the accusation that he was a cheat.
France went on to endure a disastrous World Cup, crashing out in the group phase after the players went on strike in protest at striker Nicolas Anelka’s exclusion from the squad for clashing with coach Raymond Domenech.