THIERRY HENRY'S public quote was short and to the point: "I will be honest, it was a handball. But I'm not the ref. I played it. The ref allowed it."
And so the process of trying to save a once sparkling reputation begins. Henry's blatant handball in Paris last night saw France grab an extra-time goal to put the Republic of Ireland out of next year's World Cup.
The headlines are lurid, the public want the former hero of Highbury to pay for one of the most obvious handballs ever missed by three officials (though there's always Diego's 1986 effort). Henry nearly caught the ball from Malouda's free-kick, before pushing the ball square for William Gallas to head home the vital goal. And everybody knew what he'd done.
Ireland's Richard Dunne said this morning: "Thierry told us we deserved to win. How is that supposed to make me feel? It makes me feel worse. He’s admitted he cheated. We should have won the game. He just said 'that's it'.
"He just said he handled it, he didn’t mean it. Looking at it, it’s quite obvious he did mean it. It’s there for everyone to see and they’re not going to change it now."
Another former Arsenal legend, Liam Brady, said: "It's a bad day for football," yet curiously Anfield great Ronnie Whelan said it was all part of the game, that anybody would have done what Henry did.
Elsewhere there are calls for a ban. The argument goes: If Eduardo can be punished (though he was exonerated on appeal) for diving against Celtic, how can Henry get away with THAT?
And of course they're right. Henry should be suspended from the first two games of next year's World Cup for his obviously deliberate actions. It's the least FIFA can do.