Henry's 'blatant unfair play' could lead to ban in South Africa

Thierry Henry is facing the prospect of being banned from the start of next summer's World Cup finals after FIFA announced their disciplinary committee had opened proceedings against the French striker for his infamous handball.

The incident in the World Cup play-off against the Republic of Ireland was the main subject of an emergency meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Cape Town yesterday.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced the proceedings against Henry at a news conference and although he added it was too early to speculate on the outcome, the Barcelona forward could face a range of sanctions, with a one-match ban perhaps the most likely.

Asked why FIFA were making a special case of Henry when so many players commit handballs, Blatter said: "This is a matter of the disciplinary committee and it's not a question of this player or another – it was blatant unfair play and was shown all around the world, but I don't know what the outcome will be.

"I have not said that Thierry Henry will be punished, I have said that Thierry Henry will be examined by the disciplinary committee of FIFA."

Blatter said players should realise that the eyes of the world will be on them next summer.

"I appeal to all the players and coaches to observe this fair play. In 2010 we want to prove that football is more than just kicking a ball but has social and cultural value," he added.

"So we ask the players, 'Please observe fair play', so they will be an example to the rest of the world."

Blatter yesterday apologised to the Republic of Ireland for earlier comments which dismissed their hopes of being granted an additional place at next summer's World Cup finals.

The Football Association of Ireland requested FIFA include them as a 33rd team in South Africa in the wake of Henry's handball.

Blatter raised the subject at the Soccerex conference in Johannesburg earlier this week and his words were greeted with laughter from some delegates and journalists present.

Including them at the finals would have been an unprecedented move and would set a dangerous precedent, Blatter acknowledged.

However, the FAI withdrew the proposal prior to yesterday's emergency meeting of the executive committee and afterwards, Blatter expressed remorse for his previous comments.

"I would like to express my regrets to a wrong interpretation of what I said and to the FAI I'm sorry about the headlines going around the world," said Blatter.

"I have nothing against the Irish, they were very sporting when they came to FIFA."