Thierry Henry says the outcry over his hand ball in France’s World Cup playoff against Ireland pushed him to the brink of international retirement.
French sports daily L’Equipe quoted the Barcelona striker in an interview as saying he felt abandoned and deeply upset by the virulent criticism he received from former players and politicians.
Henry’s hand ball before passing for defender William Gallas to score helped give France a 1-1 draw with Ireland and a 2-1 win on aggregate, advancing the team to next year’s tournament in South Africa.
“The day after the match and the next day, I felt alone, really alone,” said Henry, adding that he gave serious thought about quitting the French team. “Oh, yes I did. Friday, when everything had gone too far, I was very worked up.”
After receiving criticism from former players such as former Ireland and Marseille striker Tony Cascarino and French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot, Henry said it was his friends and family who talked him out of retiring from international football.
“Despite everything that happened, the fact I felt abandoned, I will not drop my country,” he said. “I asked myself the question. Without the support of my loved ones, maybe I wouldn’t have thought the same way. Now, I’ve decided - I’ll always fight until the end.
“It’s been very hard, everything started from something that happens in a game and it went too far. I heard some people giving lectures about this, when I said I was sorry, on the pitch and off it.”
Henry received criticism for wildly celebrating Gallas’ goal in front of dejected Irish players.
“I shouldn’t have done that. But honestly, it was uncontrollable ... Yes, I regret that,” he said.
However, Henry dodged the issue of whether he should have immediately told referee Martin Hansson he had handled the ball.
“I was in a no-win situation,” he said, adding that the incident will not overshadow his whole career. “I don’t think that everything I’ve achieved can be tarnished.”