Martin Hansson, the referee who failed to spot Thierry Henry's handball against the Republic of Ireland in 2009, says he wouldn't speak to the France striker if he met him today.

Henry controlled the ball with his hand in Paris during the sides' World Cup play-off meeting before setting up what proved to be a decisive extra-time goal for William Gallas.

The incident sparked a huge reaction in Ireland and internationally, eventually leading to FIFA giving the FAI a €5m payment to avert a potential legal case.

Under the terms of the agreement, the loan was written off when Ireland failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

Speaking to The Athletic, Hansson, who now works as a FIFA referee observer, said that the mood after the game in the referees dressing-room was initially positive. 

"When I went into that room I really thought it was one of the best games of my career," said the Swede.

"It's not so often, as a referee, you look forward to extra-time but, for this game, that was how I felt. I was in a good point of my career. I had refereed the Confederations Cup final earlier in the year. I really thought I had had a good game."

However, a FIFA official quickly arrived to break the news, and Hansson admitted he "broke down completely".

"He said that he was sorry but he had to tell us it was a very deliberate handball for the goal."

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An unnamed FAI official told the referee that they held Henry responsible for the mistake.

"He wanted to shake our hands. 'Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘of course it is a mistake but we blame the player, we don’t blame you. It’s big, big cheating from the player’. That was unbelievably good of him.

"We knew what it meant for Ireland and we also knew that, for us (his refereeing team), the World Cup in South Africa didn't exist anymore.

"It was the worst performance of my career. I'm just grateful that I had very good friends during that time. I had a lot of support. Referees from all over Europe were texting me, many more than I would ever have thought.

"It was a catastrophe for Ireland. They were so close to the World Cup and it’s such a big thing. Fantastic people, too."

Irish players appeal to Hansson

Hansson, who says he received death threats in the wake of the incident, believes the furore helped to spur changes in football but he would have liked to have seen a more public admission from the Frenchman.

"It could never happen now," he said. "Not just because of VAR but also because, within half a year, they appointed the additional assistant referees behind the goals. It was the Henry incident that meant them starting that project.

"If we had the technology in place back then it would have been better for everyone. But what I would really like to ask is, where is the discussion about players cheating?

"It's not a very big discussion, is it? If the referee makes a mistake, the television company wants to speak to the referee to ask what happened. The referee has to come out and say, 'Oh, it was a big mistake, I thought it was a penalty and I was wrong’. Or in my case, that I couldn’t see the handball because I was blocked from the player.

"Never, though, will they put a big star in front of the cameras and ask, ‘Can you please watch this screen here? You are obviously cheating, so what are you wanting to say about that, hey?’ I have never heard that question."

As to what he would say to Henry should he meet the striker: "I won't speak with him."