FRANCE striker Thierry Henry last night escaped punishment for his handball against the Republic of Ireland after world governing body, Fifa, admitted they were powerless to sanction him.
Henry was referred to Fifa’s disciplinary committee by president Sepp Blatter last month after he handled the ball twice before squaring to William Gallas to score the decisive goal in extra time of the World Cup play-off with the Irish.
But the committee returned last night and deemed there was “no legal foundation” for them to deal with the case as Fifa rules stipulate that only the use of a hand in preventing a goal being scored is covered.
It means Barcelona striker Henry will not face any ban and is free to join up with his French team-mates in South Africa next summer.
“Handling the ball cannot be regarded as a serious infringement as stipulated in the Fifa disciplinary code,” a Fifa statement confirmed afterwards.
“There is no other legal text that would allow the committee to impose sanctions for any incidents missed by match officials.”
This decision is bound to infuriate Football Association of Ireland officials again, who tried, unsuccessfully, to get the game replayed.
On hearing the decision to exonorate Henry, Ireland defender Sean St Ledger said: “I’m shocked but not surprised really.
“Obviously I don’t want to see players getting banned but at the same time it promotes, ‘if you can get away with it, then do it’.
“I saw it [the handball] again today and I still believe the second time he intentionally handballed it. Across the board we are all hurt from it.”