Martin adds voice to replay calls


Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has added his voice to those calling for a replay of Ireland's controversial World Cup playoff against France.

Speaking this morning, Mr Martin described the outcome of the tie, which France won thanks to a handball-assisted goal, as a "stain" on the World Cup.

"The French team and its association should offer to play the match again," he said, "Otherwise, this will not go away."

Mr Martin described Thierry Henry's action in twice handling the ball before the vital French goal was scored as "barefaced" and said the affair set a bad example for young people who witnessed it. "The Kerry centre forwards would be proud of Henry's skill. It was so blatant it cries out for action."

However, Mr Martin said it would not be appropriate for him or other politicians to press Ireland's case. "This is a matter in which the sporting authorities should do the right and decent thing, but the political system should be loathe to get involved."

Sporting bodies should also react by changing the way they deal such incidents, such as by using video

vidence. "If rugby can do it, why not soccer?"

Mr Martin was speaking this morning at the tenth annual NGO Forum on Human Rights, organised by his Department in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

Minister for Sport Martin Cullen yesterday wrote to Fifa president Sepp Blatter urging him to call a rematch in the interests of fair play.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen raised the issue with French president Nicolas Sarkozy on the fringes of last night’s EU summit. Mr Cowen said: “I think that he would understand the sense of disappointment that the Irish feel after the tremendous performance last night. And, as I say, this matter is going to be resolved by the sports organisations responsible for football, not in Brussels or anywhere else.”

Mr Sarkozy said: “I said to Brian Cowen, who is a friend of mine as you know, that I was sorry for them and how I was struck by the talent and vigour of the Irish team.”

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni told reporters he believed a replay was an “impossible” hope, however.

French captain Thierry Henry has admitted handling the ball before setting up team-mate William Gallas for the late goal that denied the Republic a place at next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.