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Handball ref: It wasn't my fault

November 25, 2009
By Soccernet staff

The Swedish referee who missed Thierry Henry's now famous handball insists he was not at fault, but the incredible fallout after the World Cup play-off incident still almost caused him to quit football.

Kevin Kilbane, Shay Given, Keith Andrews, Martin Hansson
GettyImagesIrish players protest to Martin Hansson after the hand ball goal in 2009

Martin Hansson has refused to shoulder the blame for allowing William Gallas's goal to stand for France, sending Ireland's qualification hopes crashing, despite what replays showed was a clear use of the hand by French striker Henry in the build up.

Hansson and his assistants were blameless, he said, because their views of the handball were obstructed.

"I realise that it was not my fault," he told Swedish newspaper Sydostran. "It was an unfortunate event that had big consequences for Ireland, but it wasn't the fault of the refereeing team."

Hansson, an international referee of eight years, revealed his parents have been hounded by photographers as the world's media sought a scapegoat for the injustice of the situation.

"I thought: Is the job really worth all this degradation that I have to hear?" he said. "Maybe this is not my thing."

The 38-year-old Hansson began his professional career as a referee in 1992. He is to work a Champions League game December 8 or 9 and is looking forward to getting back on the field.

"It feels good to get a match so soon after this unfortunate episode," he said. "But best of all has been the support I've had from players and team officials."