Blatter described Henry's handball as 'cheating' [AFP]
Fifa boss Sepp Blatter has described Thierry Henry's handball against Ireland as 'blatant unfair playing' and announced that a disciplinary case would be opened against the France forward.

The decision followed a meeting by Fifa's executive committee who had referred the case to an independent disciplinary panel.

Henry handled the ball in the World Cup playoff against Ireland last month, helping France to qualify for the World Cup and Ireland to crash out.

If the committee rule against Henry, they could ultimately impose a match ban that could see him miss the start of the finals in South Africa next June.

The disciplinary committee does have the power to ban the player and the fact a case has been opened against him suggests he could well be sanctioned with a ban from France's next competitive matches which will be at the finals.

Speaking at a news conference in Cape Town ahead of next year's 2010 World Cup draw, Blatter said that Fifa's disciplinary committee would look at Henry's behaviour in the November 18 second leg qualifier which took place at Stade de France.

Irish anger

Henry twice handled the ball before passing to William Gallas, who scored the goal that gave France a 1-1 draw and 2-1 win on aggregate to qualify for the World Cup instead of Ireland.

Ireland's players later expressed anger that the France captain ran to join a jubilant goal celebration with teammates instead of acknowledging his foul play.

Blatter said no timetable has been set for a meeting and ruling from the panel, which is chaired by Swiss lawyer Marcel Mathier.

Henry felt 'abandoned' after the incident [AFP]
Blatter said he spoke by telephone with Henry several days ago, and that the Frenchman felt "left alone and abandoned'' by intense public reaction against him.

"It was a sportsman's discussion,'' said Blatter said, who has made fair play in football a major theme of his presidency.

He appealed to coaches to observe fair play and said the Henry case could be "an example for the youth of the world.''

The French Football Federation would not immediately comment on the
disciplinary case.

No extra officials

Blatter also announced that there would be no use of extra match officials at the World Cup, despite the uproar over Henry's handball.

However, he said there were further plans to introduce more match officials or technology at a later stage, and that the current experiment of five on-field officials in Uefa's Europa League will continue.

"The experiments for the Europa League shall go on,'' Blatter said.

"But it has been decided that for the World Cup 2010 there is no change for
referees. We will still have one referee, two assistants, one No. 4 and perhaps additional subs on the bench. But on the field of play, you will have one referee and two assistants. This is for 2010, definitely.''

Apology

Blatter also took the opportunity to apologise to Ireland for revealing that the country's football association had asked for a 33rd place at next year's World Cup in South Africa.

Blatter said he regretted telling a football business conference in Johannesburg that the Irish had asked for an extra place at the World Cup finals after their controversial elimination in their qualifying play-off with France.

"I regret what I created by what I said and I'm sorry about the headlines.

"The Irish were very sporting people when they came to see us at Fifa. I'm very sorry about that."

Source: Agencies