Friday night, in a crucial match against Ireland, France’s Thierry Henry passed the ball to William Gallas, who headed it home to earn France a place in the World Cup finals. The winning goal at the Stade de France was a particularly special one for two players that share a birthday and a Guadeloupean ancestry and have been schoolmates and lifelong friends.
The two men were born on the same day, on August 17, 1977, in the western suburbs of Paris. Both came from sporting families with their origins in Guadeloupe. By their early teens both found themselves at the elite Clairefontaine football academy near Paris, part of a golden generation that included Nicolas Anelka and Louis Saha. And both men, of course, ended up at Arsenal, although they spent only a season together before Henry moved to Barcelona.
In a crush of reporters in the “mixed zone” at the Stade de France last night, Henry was honest about having handled the ball before cutting it back across goal to Gallas. “It was a handball, but I’m not the referee,” he said, insisting that the fact the game had been hard-fought made victory that much sweeter.
Henry was asked about the long hug he shared with Gallas after the final whistle.
“You know,” he said, “I’ve known William a long time. I don’t want to make this nostalgia night but we went to school together, we share the same date of birth; we were at Clairefontaine together. To come together with him in that move, both of us, was a big moment. It will go down in history.”
For the original report go to http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/international/article6922989.ece