Swedish ref on handball goal: ‘It wasn’t my fault’

Swedish ref on handball goal: 'It wasn't my fault'
Martin Hansson, the much-criticized Swedish referee who last week missed a handball by French international Thierry Henry, has spoken out about the incident for the first time.

“I’ve wondered, is this job worth all the humiliation I’ve had to endure. The thought occurred to me that maybe this isn’t my thing,” Hansson told the local Sydöstran newspaper.

Hansson’s comments come following what he calls a “turbulent week” in the wake of a missed call which dashed Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The Swedish referee became the object of Irish ire when he allowed an extra-time goal by French defender William Gallas, following a pass from Henry which came moments after he had clearly handled the ball, according to video replays of the sequence.

The goal, which tied the match 1-1, meant that France would advance through to the World Cup in South Africa, while Ireland was sent packing.

Hansson found himself ridiculed in both the Swedish and international press for what one Aftonbladet commentator called the worst Swedish officiating mistake in decades.

Despite the criticism, however, Hansson said he realized he shouldn’t blame himself.

“It wasn’t my fault. It was an unfortunate event which had huge consequences for Ireland. But it wasn’t the officiating team’s fault,” he told the newspaper.

Hansson explained that a graphic compiled by British newspaper The Times helped show that neither he nor the linesmen had a clear line of sight to Henry’s handball.

“The graphic has vindicated the entire officiating team in the matter,” said Martin.

He was also comforted by supportive words from one of England’s most famous club trainers.

“It felt good to have Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, speak out on my behalf,” he told Sydöstran.

Hansson was upset, however, that foreign journalists had been bothering his parents at their home in southern Sweden in hopes of getting in touch with their referee son.

“I don’t understand the point of visiting my parents, who are 73- and 75-years-old. They certainly haven’t officiated any match,” he said.

On orders from FIFA, the governing body of international football, Hansson is still unable to comment specifically about the game.

And despite his thoughts about quitting, he is looking forward to his next match, most likely a Champions League game sometime in mid-December.

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