Op-Ed: Thierry Henry talks - and says very little

Posted Jun 26, 2010 by Johnny Summerton
On Friday the French international striker Thierry Henry gave his first interview since France's ignominious performance both on and off the pitch during the country's short-lived campaign at the World Cup in South Africa.
Thierry Henry (screenshot from interview on Canal +)
Thierry Henry (screenshot from interview on Canal +)
In a pre-recorded interview broadcast on the early evening news programme Le Grand Journal on Canal +, Henry answered questions about the exclusion of striker Nicolas Anelka, the refusal of the team to train, the feeling within the squad during the tournament, claims of bullying and his meeting on Thursday with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.
If the viewing public and the French as a whole had been hoping for an explanation as to what exactly went on within the team, then they were in for a disappointment as Henry remained circumspect throughout the interview.
"The first reason for the 'fiasco' was that the team didn't play well," he said.
"When a side wins anything can happen but when there are setbacks, doubts occur, stories are invented and the rest is history."
Even though pressed on the whether coach Raymond Domenech had really been up to the job, Henry remained loyal saying that the manager "had been there taking decisions and he had to be respected."
But he also admitted to having felt somewhat "isolated" from the rest of the group, although he refused outright to lay the blame with anyone or name names.
"I don't want to go into detail," he said. "I could have been like a big brother to the rest of the team, but it was difficult as I didn't really have any credibility."
Let's not forget that Henry, a member of France's 1998 World Cup winning team and the side that went on to lift the European Football championship in 2000, is probably one of France's most respected players.
Domenech included Henry in the squad but kept him sidelined for much of the competition, bringing him on in the second half of the final match against South Africa.
Of the now infamous insult allegedly hurled by Nicolas Anelka at Domenech and which led to the striker's exclusion, Henry was guarded.
"I didn't hear exactly what was said but when you make that the headline of an article which appears in a newspaper, you have to be completely certain that you've got the correct wording."
Henry said he hadn't witnessed any of the reported fighting between players, nor had he seen pressure put on anyone.
But he also admitted that he didn't know what had gone on among the other players when he returned to his room.
He also insisted that the players' decision not to train as a protest against the French Football Federation's handling of Anelka had been a "unanimous one."
"We decided against training when we were in the bus and nobody was forced into the action," he said.
"With hindsight and in view of the consequences some might have regretted it, but at the time we were united."
Finally of his meeting with Sarkozy on Thursday, Henry said nothing more than it had "gone very well" even when pressed to reveal what the two men had discussed.
Henry's interview, along with those of his club team mate at Barcelona Eric Abidal and the Manchester United player Patrick Evra both of whom also gave interviews on Friday, have left many commentators in France wondering whether the players had agreed on a strategy for dealing with questions following their return home.
Say as little as possible in the short term and wait until later before going into detail as to what really happened.