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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Cheat. Liar. Criminal. Who would have thought that these would have been the words we would eventually associate with the much-loved, oft-celebrated Thierry Henry? Well, me, actually. For all the magnificence that he has shown on the pitch over the years, he has been like this for a few years now. His decline began, not with that nefarious handball at the Stade de France, but with an emotional outburst way back in 2006. Arsenal had just been beaten in the Champions League Final by Barcelona and Henry was fuming at the underhand behaviour of some of his opponents.

"Next time I'll learn to dive maybe," he raged after the game, "but I'm not a woman." Fine words indeed, but it was only a matter of weeks before he was fitted for his first training bra. Nudged in the chest by Carlos Puyol in France's World Cup second round clash with Spain, Henry collapsed to the ground clutching his face as if his nose was about to fall off. He rolled, he wailed, he slumped motionless as if the pain had grown too severe and he had been taken from this earthly plain. It was genuinely moving. France scored from the resulting free-kick and Spain were eliminated.

Worse was to come the following season when Wigan visited The Emirates Stadium. Darting in from the flanks, Henry zipped past Emerson Boyce cut into the touchline and then crashed to the turf. Boyce hadn't touched him. No-one had touched him. Most upsettingly, Henry's head was turning towards the referee before he'd even hit the ground. He knew what he was doing. He was replacing his training bra with an expensive set of lingerie. He was buying up romantic comedies with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. He was putting the toilet seat down after using it.

The strangest thing about 'the hand of Frog' is that people seem surprised by Henry's duplicitious nature, as if he's always been a wonderful example for children across the globe. He might have been once, but not for the last three years. Let's call him what he is. He's a cheat. He might argue that he did what he had to do, he might claim that in a game of such importance the end always justifies the means, but let's not lose sight of that one salient fact. He's a cheat. Ireland may well have lost the penalty shoot-out, France might have qualified legitimately, but now we'll never know.

France won't win the World Cup, not unless the woefully inept Raymond Domenech is shown the door anyway. They are far less than the sum of their parts, there is little to no leadership in their ranks and what goes around comes around. Football karma is the most powerful force in this universe. France will get what they deserve and so, more pertinently, will Henry. His reputation is in tatters, he is almost universally reviled and, like all those who have come before him, like Diego Maradona, Jurgen Klinsmann and Rivaldo, he will be remembered in years to come as little more than a rotten cheat.
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