Football/Soccer

Fifa's handball payment branded a joke in Germany

Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane refused to be drawn on the payment scandal engulfing the FAI and Fifa during a press conference at Malahide on Friday Picture: PA
Martyn Ziegler in Berlin and Damian Spellman in Dublin

FIFA's payment to Ireland over Thierry Henry's handball has been condemned as "a joke" by the head of German football.

Wolfgang Niersbach, the president of the German football federation and a Fifa executive committee member, spoke out after the world governing body admitted paying the Football Association of Ireland €5million as compensation for the infamous Thierry handball in a World Cup play-off.

The Fifa payment, initially a loan, was agreed in return for the FAI not taking the case to court. Had Ireland qualified for the 2014 finals, they would have had to pay the money back.

Niersbach said: "It is a joke that they paid this money out to stop the Irish taking them in front of court."

France beat Ireland in the 2009 play-off 2-1 on aggregate - with France's extra-time decider in the second leg owing much to an Henry handball in the build-up - which led to the FAI threatening legal action after missing out on the 2010 World Cup.

Meanwhile, Republic assistant manager Roy Keane has studiously avoided being drawn into the brewing crisis. Keane, whose reputation for plain-speaking goes before him, was unusually reticent on the matter, preferring instead to concentrate on Sunday's friendly against England and preparations for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland on June 13.

When asked about the Fifa situation, Keane replied: "Do you know what? Not today, I'm not in the mood for all that stuff today. If you want to ask me about the games coming up and the players we have, no problem.

"But I'm not going into the Fifa stuff. I'm here to work with the players and focus on the games coming up, so I'm not going there with that one."

When asked about Fifa's payment to the FAI, Keane was equally unforthcoming: "It's the same answer to that. I'm the assistant manager, I'm here to work with the players and help the team get ready for Sunday.

"We have had a few nice days already, it's crunch-time coming up for us, so that's the only focus for me."

Keane and FAI chief John Delaney have not always seen eye-to-eye, although both insist old wounds have healed since the former Manchester United skipper was drafted in to work under manager Martin O'Neill. But when asked if the chief executive was a distraction, the 43-year-old did crack a smile.

He said: "Isn't he always?

"No, no, this is the last time I'm going to say it: if you want to talk about the games coming up, no problem; if you don't want to talk about the games, I'll leave you to it, no problem."

There was humour too when the name of former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, once described by then Sunderland manager Keane as "a clown", was raised.

He said: "I have had issues with everybody. Again, if you want to talk about the game, no problem; if you want to talk about all the other stuff, you are talking to the wrong man."

If sports news around the world has been dominated by the Fifa story in recent days, it appears to have barely warranted a mention at the Republic's Portmarnock base or Gannon Park training headquarters.

Asked if the players had been affected by it, Keane said: "No, I don't think so, I wouldn't have thought so. I think they've got other more important things to worry about.

"The players aren't in control of any of that stuff, who's running the game and what's going on, what's supposed to be going on.

"The players have enough on their plates getting focused. Three games in nine, 10 days just takes care of itself. You are either focusing on the game or you are getting your recovery like today, and before we know it, we are into the England game and, with it being an early kick-off on Sunday, you are bang into it, you are not hanging around all day, and then the Scotland game.

"I'd be surprised. I know if I was a player at the moment and all that was going on, it wouldn't concern me too much. You have to get your priorities right, and that's getting focused for a big game of international football where there's a lot at stake for everybody.

"Put it this way: we have not even discussed it. We have had one or two chats with the staff, but when we are chatting with the players, it doesn't come into it."

Football/Soccer

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