Early Doors

FIFA free the Handball One

Early Doors

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Early Doors copped a lot of flak for daring to have a sense of humour in the aftermath of Thierry Henry's handball that led to Ireland's World Cup play-off defeat last November.

It was a moment that rocked football and even broke through into the wider public consciousness, although his sponsors may not have been so happy. "Still," Gillette must have thought at the time, "at least we've still got Tiger".

As shocking, deceptive and underhand (literally) as the Barcelona forward's double dribble on that night in Paris was, FIFA's disciplinary committee saw sense on the matter by ruling that Henry should not face any retrospective punishment.

Henry had tried to deflect the scorn poured on him in the ensuing days by revealing that he felt lonely and depressed for what he had done, and had considered quitting international football, before deciding against it.

It was the sort of faux-guilt a child portrays when they are getting told off, but are secretly pleased with whatever demonic act it was that got them into trouble in the first place.

However, any sanction handed out to Henry would have been as ridiculous as granting the FAI's request for a 33rd spot at this summer's finals in South Africa. Well, almost.

Ireland defender Sean St Ledger complained that Henry was not banned by saying: "Obviously I don't want players to get banned, I'm not a fan of that. But (the decision) promotes 'if you can get away with it, do it'."

St Ledger is, understandably, right to feel aggrieved by the decision but, rather than the ruling endorsing wholesale cheating, it would have been sanctions against Henry that would have set a dangerous precedent.

FIFA's statement confirmed that there is no "legal foundation" within the laws of the game to punish such actions. And that is just what they are, laws.

It is impossible to take action for an incident that happened before a change in related law. What can be done, however, is learn from the case and close any loophole that permits the same incident happening again, but that's not going to happen at FIFA HQ any time soon.

The only refuge for Ireland fans now seems to be for them to cause a rush on South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay shirts and cheer on the rest of Group A come June.

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While his countrymen are busy defending their African Cup of Nations crown in Angola, Egypt striker Amr Zaki has been finalising his return to the Premier League with a loan move to Hull City.

Zaki's time at Wigan last season closely mirrored that of the Tigers' first top flight campaign.

Just as Phil Brown's side surprised and impressed everyone with their bright start to the season, Zaki flew out of the traps with nine goals in his first 13 appearances.

However, Zaki failed to score at all for the Latics after Christmas, while City managed just one league win in the first half of 2009 as they slumped down the table.

The season ended embarrassingly for both parties, with Brown's toe-curling rendition of Sloop John B after the Tigers avoided relegation on the final day and Zaki's recurring disappearing acts leading then Wigan boss Steve Bruce to say: "I can honestly say that in all my time in football I have never worked with someone as unprofessional."

Zaki further endeared himself to fans of football and the human race in general everywhere over his alleged comments that he refused a move to Portsmouth because there were Israelis and Algerians at the club. It will be interesting to see how often he passes to new team-mate Kamel Ghilas then.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Sport fans visiting South Africa have never needed stab vests. They will not and will never need them during the World Cup. The marketing of stab vests is a joke." World Cup organising committee spokesman Rich Mkhondo slams the Protektorvest, a stab-proof top that can be customised in national team colours and slogans.

FOREIGN VIEW: Former Internazionale striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was named Italian players' association player of the year despite now being with Barcelona. His former coach Jose Mourinho, who has often clashed with rival managers and journalists but is respected by players throughout the game, won the best coach award.

COMING UP: It's a Carling Cup semi-final, and one that could prove to hold wider significance for more than just the competition's history. Follow LIVE coverage of the first leg of Manchester City v Manchester United from 20:00.

Before that we've got a must-win match for the Black Star in Group B of the African Cup of Nations, and top African football pundit Efan Ekoku doesn't much fancy their chances. Burkina Faso v Ghana is LIVE at 16:00 in text form right here or in moving pictures on British Eurosport (Sky 411 / Virgin 525) or via the Eurosport Player.

If that's not enough, there is also scoring from clashes in the FA Cup, Championship, League One, League Two, Scottish Cup, Eredivisie and Ligue 2, for all of you who snuck LB Chateauroux v Angers SCO on to the bottom of your accumulator.

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