This is how France got into the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
There was nothing legitimate about this goal. Thierry Henry clearly used his hand to direct the ball and set up William Gallas for the game-winning score. However, none of the officials saw it. The goal stood. France goes to South Africa. Ireland goes home.
There is plenty of blame to go around. Henry will be labeled as a cheat for all eternity. Referee Martin Hansson has been labeled an incompetent, even by the press in his homeland. Some will use this incident to call for video technology. Others will argue that the Europa League-style backline officials would have caught this chicanery, disallowed the goal and booked Henry for cheating.
It changes nothing, however, and it puts the lie to the notion that football is somehow supposed to be fair and just. There is nothing fair about the games we call football. How fair was it to England that Diego Maradona’s goal was allowed to stand in 1986? How fair was it to Missouri that Colorado won a national championship after scoring on 5th down? You can find plenty of incidents over the last century where someone took advantage of the ref and got an undeserved win out of it. Humans are fallible. These things will happen, and people will tell you that if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying. If you can’t overcome the treachery with your own play, you’ll just have to live with the result.
I know that’s the last thing anyone in Ireland wants to hear today. They’ll tweet bloody murder. They’ll agree with every word Robbie Keane said. They’ll point to the Frenchman in charge of UEFA and claim he somehow planned this. In the end, it doesn’t matter. The goal counts. France goes to South Africa. Ireland goes home.
Perhaps if karma counts for anything, France’s World Cup adventure will be as short as its EURO 2008 adventure. Hey, Raymond Domenech is still in charge. It wouldn’t be all that odd.