In 2010, Thierry Henry handled the ball and then assisted the winner for France in a World Cup play-off against the Republic of Ireland.

In a moment that lives in infamy amongst the Irish fans, Henry ended their hopes of qualifying for the tournament, and despite appeals from the Irish FA to replay the match, the final result stood and France headed off to South Africa.

Now, Howard Webb, former referee and current MLS manager of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) operations has spoken to the Daily Star about how that moment changed the game.

In the seven years since that day, goal-line technology has become widespread, retrospective action has been introduced for diving, and VAR has finally begun its initial trials in international friendlies and the Confederations Cup. Webb says that this all stemmed originally from that handball:

My opinion changed with Henry’s handball with regard to the video replays assisting referees. Within five or six seconds you could see Henry had clearly handled the ball. You didn’t need to be a genius to work it out it was a handball that could be quickly rectified.”

If VAR had been in place that day, there’s no way the goal would have stood, even in the very early trial version of the system used at the Confederations Cup. Henry apologised after the game, but it’s unrealistic to expect any player to own up in the heat of the moment, with tens of thousands of fans around you celebrating.

Whether it’s much solace to the Irish fans to know that their sacrifice could lead to improvements that make the game more fair in the future, is up for debate. At the end of the day, they won’t get back the chance to head to South Africa for that World Cup. But if they make it to the next one thanks to a decision made using VAR, that might help.

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