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UPDATE: FIFA release statement about $5million FAI payment

SoccerBy Sunday World
Thierry Henry handball
Thierry Henry handball

FIFA have released a statement about the controversial $5million payment made to FAI following Thierry Henry's handball in 2009 after day when Irish soccer chiefs were dragged into the ongoing scandal enveloping the game's governing body.

The FIFA statement reads: “On 18 November 2009, there was play-off match between France and the Republic of Ireland or a place in the 2010 World Cup finals. During the match, a handball by France’s Thierry Henry led indirectly to a goal against the Irish team. Ireland did not qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals.

“While the referee’s decision is final, and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) ultimately accepted it as such, in January 2010 Fifa entered into an agreement with FAI in order to put an end to any claims against Fifa. Fifa granted FAI a loan of $5 million for the construction of a stadium in Ireland. At the same time, Uefa also granted the FAI funds for the same stadium.

"The terms agreed between Fifa and the FAI were that the loan would be imbursed if Ireland qualified for the 2014 Fifa World Cup. Ireland did not so qualify. Because of this, and in view of the FAI’s financial situation, Fifa decided to write off the loan as per 31 December 2014.”

Earlier reports indicated that in order to prevent the FAI taking legal action over the infamous handball, FIFA gave the FAI a reported €5m, an amount chief executive John Delaney refused to confirm or deny earlier today.

Ireland were deprived a place at the 2010 World Cup after losing to France in a two-legged play-off. Giovanni Trapattoni's side were level at 1-1 in Paris and heading for a penalty shoot-out when Henry's illegal intervention allowed William Gallas score the winner and break Irish hearts.

At the time, Delaney denied that monetary compensation was a motivating factor.

“It’s not about money," he said the day after the game. "This is about sporting integrity."

Speaking to Ray D'Arcy on RTE Radio this afternoon, Delaney confirmed the story that first entered the public domain on the front of the Irish Sun last summer.

"We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup play-off hadn’t worked out for us with the Henry handball," said the FAI boss.

"Also the way Blatter behaved, if you remember on stage, having a snigger and having a laugh at us. That day when I went in, and I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used. We came to an agreement.

"That was a Thursday and on Monday the agreement was all signed and all done. It’s a very good agreement for the FAI and a very legitimate agreement for the FAI. I’m bound by confidentiality for naming the figure.

"You’ve put a figure out there and fair play to you It  was a payment to the association to not proceed with a legal case. In there they signed a confidentiality agreement where I can’t talk about the amount involved.

"You used a figure there, well done to you, but it was a very good and legitimate deal for the FAI."

You can listen to the full interview here

Delaney went on to say he was never offered a bribe, laughing while saying "not on my salary".

He also told an extraordinary story about an encounter his girlfriend Emma English had with Sepp Blatter.

"He met Emma, my partner, in Vienna recently," he said. "He stared at her for seven or eight seconds and he said, "I approve of your new girlfriend'".

"I asked him to move on, move on please.

"She is a great girl, I love her very much, it was an extraordinary moment. If she was here she would tell you herself. He stared at her and I said 'move on' and he did."