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Hypocrisy probably at hand for Paul Doyle over Cox-Henry comparisons October 12, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in European soccer, International soccer.
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Paul Doyle’s column in today’s Guardian attempts to make a case that we are wrong to compare Simon Cox’s handball for Ireland against Armenia on Tuesday to Theirry Henry’s handball for France against Ireland two years ago. He doesn’t succeed.

There are two fundamental distinctions for Doyle: One, that Cox’s handball was unintentional. Two, that Cox’s “heart and mind were in the right place.”

The first count is inane. For one thing, Doyle says the ball “may have grazed (Cox’s) upper arm as well as his chest,” when it’s clear that the ball in fact touched Cox’s forearm. He appears to me, from the video of the incident, to have extended his arm to settle it.

Doyle seems to know an awful lot about what’s going on in players’ heads. He calls Roman Berezovsky, the Armenian goalkeeper sent off in the wake of the incident, as “sinister bungler” and “crazed and pernicious.” At one point, he compares Berezovsky’s challenge to attempted murder — ‘Intent matters,” he says. “If you make to shoot someone, your panicked would-be victim is fully entitled to punch you in the face even if your trigger jams. Berezovsky had to go.”

Pretty overblown metaphor, but let’s pretend we accept its terms for a moment. And if you discharge a bullet with fully benign intentions and it happens to strike someone, I’m pretty sure your unintended victim should also feel entitled to seek retribution. Intent matters, sure, but it’s not the only variable.

And we should also call into question Doyle’s contention that Cox’s intentions were “in the right place.” In a post-game interview, Cox said: “It brushed my arm, but … To be fair, I didn’t think it hit the keeper’s arm, you know, out of the box. But I just had to appeal with everybody else, and, you know, we got it and, you know, they were a bit unlucky.”

So his “heart and mind were in the right place” even though he a.) knew he used his arm, b.) knew the keeper didn’t, and c.) still plead with the referee to make the wrong decision. Sounds like the wrong place to me, but that seems to be a detail Paul Doyle has conveniently disregarded.

In the wake of the Ireland incident, Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni said, “All European people saw the situation. I am sure that, if the referee had asked Henry, he would have admitted to the handball.”

So in terms of character, Cox is actually behind Henry, since even someone wronged by Henry’s infraction admits he is honorable enough to have at least done something if called upon, whereas Cox did the reverse.

The headline to Doyle’s column proclaims “hypocrisy not at hand,” but in Doyle’s case, it definitely is.

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