The fall and fall…

18 06 2010

There was something almost poetic about it last night. As his team struggled to a 2-0 defeat, Thierry Henry sat desolate on the bench, huddled up against the South African chill. The irony is that Henry’s plight mimics his country’s almost exactly. Here was a player, once the best in the world, who now struggles to command any authority either on the pitch or off of it. That Domenech, the under pressure French coach (who incidentally is leaving after the finals) chose to ignore Henry when his team were so struggling to show any form of creative intent is a sign that, despite picking him for one last hurrah, Henry’s international career is all but over.

Lacking the pace which once made him so feared, Henry must now rely on his close control and speed of thought. But increasingly the signs are that even these are deserting him. A peripheral figure now at Barcelona, the rumours abound that he will move to America to see out the remaining few years of his career. Of course Wenger spotted this a long time ago, and sold him (to much consternation from the Arsenal fans) to Barcelona, much in the same way he sold Vieira a few years before. Wenger had spotted that both were at the top of their career hills. The only way was down. Indeed for Henry, his one significant moment for club or country in recent times was the infamous handball against Ireland last autumn. That is what he has become.

Yet many do not despise him for that handball. There is, I feel, more a sense of pity growing for him. People are feeling sorry for him. Once the outstanding player in England and Europe, Henry would score goals for fun, and make very able players look foolish. Now his star is waning, to the point of going out. The parallels are there to be seen. France, for so long reliant upon the skill of Zidane and Henry and who won the World Cup and European Cup in two balmy years for French football, and who only lost the last World Cup on penalties, are now struggling to get out of their group, having struggled to get into their group in the first place. Where once Zidane lit up the pitch, Ribery now fails to do the same, despite being the stand-out Frenchman. Where once Henry terrorised defences, Anelka, Cisse et al now have all the scariness of the Easter Bunny. France just are no longer a force in world football.

Don’t get me wrong, the players they have are good players. They are not world-class though, even the talented Ribery would not get into most world XI’s. The manager is pretty rubbish, and it seems a minor miracle that he has stayed in his job so long. When he had Zidane and co to inspire his team it was easy for Domenech. Now it isn’t. The next manager is going to have a tough job restoring France to former glory.

I don’t lament the fall and fall of France. I do lament the fall of Henry. It should not be forgotten what he gave to football. An integral part of Arsene Wenger’s fluid passing footballing team for many teams, Henry scored all sorts of goals, and dazzled crowds across the world. The end of his career is nigh, but we should all remember his impact upon football. And, despite his handball, Henry should be remembered as one of the great sportsmen, on and off the pitch. The trouble is, that one moment in Paris last year will tarnish how he is remembered by the sport. It shouldn’t, but it will.

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One response

20 06 2010
Kolner Weihnachtsmann

I cannot believe that this can be true

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