What is Sepp Blatter's damage? Thierry Henry's handball slowly churns past the media news cycle, we're all delighted by a weekend of derbies and El Clasico's and the world seems right again. And then we get news that Blatter thinks it wasn't Henry's "responsibility to tell the referee [Martin Hansson]" about the handball, less than twenty four hours before telling the world, "there is a lack of discipline and respect in the game by the players because they are cheating."
But Blatter didn't stop there. He aired the ludicrous news that Ireland had begged, just begged FIFA to be the 33rd team in the World Cup, something the result against France, while unjust, couldn't possibly warrant on its own. While one shouldn't put anything past an aggrieved and ill-organized association like the FAI, it seems inconceivable they would have made this request with any serious intent, perhaps throwing out it there in a fit of righteous anger shortly after the infamous second leg.
So what is Blatter's motive in revealing this information now? What is his hidden agenda here? He's clearly in support of a touch-line official, as he went on to reveal. Interestingly, he regards video technology as an affront to the "human face" of football, a curious comment considering the cost of World Cup television rights, and how some World Cups have been awarded based on FIFA's cozy relationship with TV companies in the past (Mexico '86 anyone? Incidentally the same WC in which games were played in excruciating heat so European audiences could catch games on prime time TV. Quite the 'human face' there.).
But there's more to it than highlighting this incident to support more officiating. My own view is Blatter doesn't want this Henry story to die simply because it has enough legs to keep FIFA in the news cycle beyond international week. He's baiting journalists by siding with Henry one moment, then calling out Ireland for making selfish demands on FIFA's sacred international tournament the next. I wouldn't put it past Blatter that the reason he mentioned the possibility of an extra team in the WC is because Blatter wants the tournament to expand even further (i.e. Ireland wouldn't have had this problem had the tournament been even bigger).
None of this has anything to do with football. If you want football news, you'll be happy to know Barca beat Real Madrid 1-0 at Camp Nou on Sunday. The goal came when WC qualified Thierry Henry got subbed off for Sweden's Ibrahimovic, the latter player scoring the winning goal moments after coming on by. Sweden by the way missed out on qualifying for South Africa 2010.