Thierry Henry is facing the prospect of being banned from the start of next summerâ€™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 on Wednesday.
However, the body rejected a proposal â€” brought in response to the handball – to fast-track the experimental system of having five officials on the pitch, with two extra assistant referees behind each goal-line, for the World Cup.
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: â€œThis is a matter of the disciplinary committee and itâ€™s not a question of this player or another _ it was blatant unfair play and was shown all around the world, but I donâ€™t know what the outcome will be.â€
â€œI have not said that Thierry Henry will be punished, I have said that Thierry Henry will be examined by the disciplinary committee of FIFA.â€
Blatter said players should realise that the eyes of the world will be on them next summer.
â€œI 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,â€ he added.
â€œSo we ask the players, â€˜Please observe fair playâ€™, so they will be an example to the rest of the world.â€
The handball led to William Gallasâ€™ decisive goal that ended Irish dreams of reaching the World Cup. The outcry has now led to FIFA being pressed to announce an inquiry into the possibility of using technology or extra officials.
Blatter said the World Cup would come too soon to allow the inclusion of the system currently being trialled in the Europa League, and he was backed up by German executive committee member Franz Beckenbauer.
The FIFA president said: â€œThe executive committee came to the decision that the referee is not any longer consistent with the quality and the speed of the game and the interest of television and 32 cameras as we will have in the World Cup.
â€œWe shall have a look at technology or additional persons and this shall be done by a committee but not the referees committee alone, it will be done by the football, technical and medical committees too.
â€œThe experiments with the Europa League shall go on into the knock_out stages next year but it has been decided for the World Cup 2010 there is no change in the refereeing: one referee, two assistants and a fourth official.â€
Beckenbauer told Press Association Sport: â€œOnly referees in the Europa League will have used this system. Referees from Africa and South America and everywhere else would have had to arrive at the World Cup to use this new system for the first time and I donâ€™t think it is fair to ask that of them.â€
FIFA also warned Argentina coach Diego Maradona not to try to circumvent his two-month ban from football activities by turning up to Fridayâ€™s draw with media accreditation.