NEW YORK (AP) - Thierry Henry is retiring from the French national team.
The 32-year-old forward announced his decision Thursday at the offices of The Associated Press before a news conference to discuss his signing with Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls.
A member of France’s 1998 world championship and 2000 European champion teams, Henry said he will not try to emulate England’s David Beckham and commute between the U.S. and Europe.
“I always want to be here 100 percent and fully committed to this cause and the organization,” Henry said.
Henry had a French record 51 goals in 123 international appearances. He made his debut Oct. 11, 1997, scoring in injury time of a 2-1 win over South Africa. His finale was June 22 against the Bafana Bafana, when he entered in the 55th minute as the French were eliminated from the World Cup with a 2-1, first-round loss.
“That was my last game against South Africa,” he said. “Ironically, it was also my first game in the national team against South Africa.”
Henry made up his mind before the tournament.
“I couldn’t announce it before because that’s not the type of thing you announce before a World Cup,” he said.
French players went on strike and refused to train before their final match when striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for verbally using coach Raymond Domenech, who was replaced after the tournament by Laurent Blanc.
“We still have a good team,” Henry said. “I think the guys that are going to stay, they still are great players. If you see the guys playing individually in their team, they’re always doing great. But as you know, in a team sport, it’s always a matter of having a great team. it’s not only about individuals, and I think Laurent Blanc can do this.”
Still, Henry doesn’t think this World Cup was the lowest point in his career. The 2002 World Cup in South Korea has that distinction.
“We didn’t even score one goal and we were the reigning world champion,” he said. “And we bounced back, and we went to the final of the World Cup in 2006. Obviously we didn’t win it. It still hurts.”
Domenech didn’t start Henry at the tournament, using him twice as a substitute.
“I will always respect and accept that. It wasn’t easy at the time, but I don’t regret anything,” Henry said. “I think for the French team and French football it’s time to move on and make sure that they can be again successful.”
By coming to New York, Henry realizes he could anger a large Irish community. On a blown call last November, Henry handled the ball twice with his left hand, poking it to William Gallas for a go-ahead extra-time goal against Ireland in a playoff that put France into the World Cup.
“After the game, I did apologize and I was saying this to the guys on the pitch, to the Irish guys,” Henry said. “But, hey, the rules of the game are the ref doesn’t blow the whistle, you’ve got to play.”
He compared it with another clear hand ball call that was missed.
“It was kind of funny to see (Brazil’s) Luis Fabiano score this goal against Ivory Coast in the World Cup, and nobody ever said anything,” he said. “It was kind of weird, but that’s the way the game is.”
With the Red Bulls, Henry will go back to playing in the middle of the field rather than on the left, where he had played with Barcelona. He said he played with a knee injury for much of the first half of last season, making it only fair that he lost playing time to Pedro Rodriguez and Bojan Krkic.
He thinks he has a lot to contribute to MLS.
“Maybe I’m not like the 20-year-old who used to run past anybody, but it’s all about awareness,” he said.
His new contract runs for 4 1/2 seasons. After that, he’d like to remain in the game.
“I think at 37 maybe it will be time to say goodbye,” he said. “I can see being a manager sometime. It is not that easy. So we’ll see.”
He is to make his Red Bulls debut against Tottenham on July 22. Having scored a club-record 226 goals for Arsenal from 1999-07, it’s more than an exhibition game.
“I won’t even mention the name of the team that we are going to play on the 22nd,” he said. “That’s how big a rivalry is it for me.”
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