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NO SURVIVORS; FIFA code is wrecked by Paris storm.

Byline: Michael Calvin

"Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure. Playing fair requires courage and character. It is also more satisfying.

"Fair play always has its reward, even when the game is lost. Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame.

"Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly."

THAT, believe it or not, is the first of 10 golden rules which make up FIFA's Fair Play Code.

It is a monument to hypocrisy, an epitaph for the "sporting, moral and ethical principles" which supposedly shape the global game.

There are no survivors from the perfect storm of human weakness, corporate cynicism and moral outrage which broke over the Stade de France.

Thierry Henry has been exposed as manipulative and insincere.

He cheated, set the rhythm for the choreography of convenient contrition.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter (right), the office clerk who would be king, made himself scarce. The biggest blip of his week was Russia's play-off elimination.

Before the faithful rush to requiem masses for Irish innocence, they should pause and reflect on another inconvenient truth.

As cruel as it may appear, Shay Given, Robbie Keane and the team robbed by Henry's impression of an NBA point guard got what was coming to them.

Individually, they deserve to be in South Africa. Collectively, they pay the price for living a lie.

As I wrote here last week, footballers are conditioned to cheat. It is in their DNA.

The Irish all obeyed football's most sacred convention, which blindly promotes the myth of the good pro.

No one in football, from David Beckham downwards, blamed Henry. It was far easier to portray him as a plaything of fate.

Arsene Wenger suggested real villains fix matches, bribe referees and ingest performance-enhancing drugs.

But Henry's apology bore the fingerprints of a ghostwriter keen to salvage the shreds of his client's reputation

How Richard Dunne tolerated the France captain's stage-managed sorrow after the final whistle is beyond me.

Henry does little by accident.He knew the cameras were on him. Look at me, folks. I care. Cut me, and I will bleed.

He was, to use his own damning phrase, "exploiting the exploitable".

I'm ashamed to admit that, in Dunne's position, I would have given him a right-hander.

When I've confessed that base instinct, to players and managers over the last couple of days, the majority have used the same phrase.

"It's part of the game."

That, chaps, is the problem.Henry's platitudes about wanting a replay were worthless be-cause FIFA had already decreed the referee's decision final.

They knew their audience. Footballers are conditioned to walking away from train wrecks with their eyes set firmly on the horizon.

That suits Blatter, who seriously considers himself a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Why should we doubt him? FIFA stage matches between chil-dren from warring countries. They expect players to deliver sub-Olympian speeches, promising to show "fairness and solidarity in everything we do".

They hand out Fair Play diplomas, and have earmarked September 23 as annual Fair Play Day.

It's all a sham. Pass the Mulberry sick bag, and consider this, the ninth golden rule: "Do not be ashamed to stand up to anybody who you are sure is trying to make others cheat or engage in other unacceptable behaviour. It is better to expose them and have them removed before they can do any damage.

"It is equally dishonest to go along with a dishonest act. Do not just say no. Denounce those misguided persons who are trying to spoil our sport before they can persuade somebody else to say yes."

"Footballers are conditioned to cheat. It's in their DNA. A player does not need to be told to collapse theatrically if he is brushed by so much as an angel's wing in the penalty area."

Michael Calvin last Sunday

Email Michael at sport@sundaymirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

Irish star Richard Dunne amazingly consoles Thierry Henry at the final whistle
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 22, 2009
Words:675
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