DUBLIN: The Football Association of Iceland has confirmed having received a compensation payment from FIFA after the Thierry Henry handball controversy in the 2010 World Cup qualifying play-off with France.
Ireland’s fans may not be too impressed to learn that the FAI traded on-the-pitch veracity for off-the-pitch cash.
FAI chief executive John Delaney, asked on RTÉ Radio 1 about reports of such a remarkable new twist in the saga, said: “We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup play-off hadn’t worked out for us with the Henry handball.”
Henry handled the ball in the build-up to William Gallas’s extra-time equaliser against Ireland in the World Cup play-off in 2009 with Swedish referee Martin Hansson unsighted.
France had won the first leg 1-0 in Dublin but the Irish were leading 1-0 in Paris and had thus forced extra time. The game had been heading for penalties but France ultimately went on to the finals in South Africa on a 2-1 aggregate while Ireland stayed home.
Ireland subsequently appealed to be be added as “33rd team” at the finals – an idea that was rejected publicly by FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Delaney said: “Remember the way Blatter behaved, having a snigger and having a laugh at us. That day when I went in, and I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used. We came to an agreement.
“That was a Thursday and on Monday the agreement was all signed and all done. It’s a very good agreement for the FAI and a very legitimate agreement for the FAI. I’m bound by confidentiality from naming the figure.”
Delaney refused to confirm reports that the payment was €5m though FIFA did in a later statement of its own.
He went on to offer an insight into the high regard in which Blatter was held by some of the FIFA members.
Delaney said: “I remember being at the FIFA Congress in Morocco when the guy from East Timor, they were just brought in as a member of FIFA, and four times in the East Timor’s president’s address, he called Blatter your excellency. He presented him with a sword of some kind.
“I turned to our president David Blood and said; ‘Do you know if Blatter turned around and shoots somebody in the front row, East Timor would still probably still vote for him.’
“That’s how he got revered. He was brilliant at it. You’ve got to give him some bit of credit, I don’t admire him at all but he was resilient, and it took a wave of momentum to finally get him stepping down. He was brilliant at dividing and conquering.”
Asked whether he had ever been offered money in connection with FIFA affairs, Delaney said he had never been offered a bribe.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Not on my salary,” he replied, before discussing the probity of Europe’s governing body UEFA.
“It’s as clean as it gets but there are three UEFA members under suspicion – the Cypriot [Mario Lefterakis], the Spaniard [Angel Maria Villar] and Turkish guy [Senes Erzik].
“But I was never in a position to award something so I was never awarding a championship or something like that.”