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Page last updated at 20:54 GMT, Monday, 21 June 2010 21:54 UK

Ref Martin Hansson wants forgiveness for Henry howler

By John Haughey
BBC NI Sport

Martin Hansson
Martin Hansson at the Fifa referees media day in South Africa on Monday

Swedish referee Martin Hansson is hoping that the Irish nation can forgive him for the mistake which ended the country's World Cup dreams.

Hansson failed to spot Thierry Henry's infamous handball in last November's World Cup play-off as France edged out a heartbroken Republic of Ireland.

The Swede is a referee at the current World Cup but has yet to take charge of a match.

"I love the (Irish) people. I love the island. I love the beer," said Hansson.

Speaking at Monday's referees day at the finals in South Africa, Hansson said that he cried in the Stade de France dressing-room after learning of his mistake in the crunch game.

"Of course, when I realised what a mistake it was," he said.

A consoling visit from an Irish team official helped, and he hopes to be welcomed next time he visits the country.

Hansson's view of Henry was blocked and, despite furious Irish protests, he let the goal stand.

It was a half-hour after he blew the final whistle that Hansson was told what he had missed.

The ensuing attention on the part-time firefighter's life in Sweden was an ordeal.

"The media was in my small village at home," added Hansson.

I know the risks of being a referee. I have to learn to deal with this

Martin Hansson

"They took photos of my parents' house, they were knocking on my neighbours' doors in the middle of the night.

"Then, I think if it's really worth (being a referee). Football is very, very emotional. It should be very emotional, but there must always be a limit."

Fifa did retain him on its elite list of referees being prepared for the finals but so far he has only been used as a fourth official in South Africa.

Indeed of the 10 European referees on duty in South Africa, Hansson is the only one who has yet to be awarded a match.

"I think now it's too late," said Hansson on Monday when he was asked if he and his two regular assistants still hoped to get a game.

"We know that when we went here, nine out of 10 referees from Europe will be a referee. We were the 10th one. We have to deal with that and accept it."

Asked whether he was paying the price for the notorious incident back in November, Hansson replied:"I don't know. It's up to others to answer than question."

Aged 39, Hansson will be eligible for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil before reaching FIFA's mandatory retirement age of 45.

His star was ascending when he was awarded the final of the Confederations Cup at Johannesburg's Ellis Park a year ago.

As a natural progression, Fifa put him in charge in Paris for the return match of the play-off as France defended a 1-0 lead but then came the incident which made headlines all over the world.

"(But) I know the risks of being a referee. I have to learn to deal with this."

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see also
France 1-1 Rep of Ire (agg 2-1)
18 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Irish 'cheated' by Henry handball
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals
It was a handball - Henry
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Brady calls for replay
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals

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