Central London was heaving last night with happy, cheering, chanting, singing, flag-waving Algerians celebrating the win over Egypt that took them to the World Cup next year.
There is nothing quite like international sport, and particularly football, for generating that kind of traffic-stopping joy, which was being repeated by the Algerian diaspora around the world.
I was on my way home via a fundraiser for the Street Children World Cup, a brilliant idea to host a tournament in South Africa, just before the real thing, for teams of kids from different countries who live on the streets. It is another reminder of the power of football – this time to draw attention to, and push others to do something about, children with no home and no rights.
Hull City’s Brazilian star Geovanni (still smarting from his sending off in their defeat at mighty Burnley) came down from Humberside and he, Jamie Redknapp and I did one of the onstage Q and As with compere Simon Mayo.
Jamie made the point that it is perhaps only after Premier League footballers retire that they fully realise the ability they have to be something more than be footballers, and help to use sport to drive change for others.
So there you have two scenes of the positive side of football. It almost made it bearable to miss the France-Ireland game.
And there we saw another side of football, and one that will have Irish people around the world feeling the exact opposite of the joy of those Algerians.
As for how Thierry Henry feels this morning, only he will really know. He should feel ashamed. But I doubt he will. Not when a nation is rejoicing at qualifying, and FIFA are breathing a sigh of relief that all the ‘big’ countries got through.
I had been following the match with text messages from my sons, and was able to announce Robbie Keane’s goal to the dinner. Later came the equaliser. Extra time. And then a torrent of texts about the winning ‘goal’ with plenty of references to cheating, and Henry suddenly converting to basketball.
I finally got to see it around midnight, and it was one of those incidents that made you feel sick. Heaven knows how the Irish coaches and players feel. To have worked so hard, and been the better team, and have it stolen like that, is too horrible to imagine. The pain will endure up to and beyond the tournament they deserve to be playing in next year.
I suppose the stakes are too high to imagine that France might do as Henry”s old boss Arsene Wenger did ten years ago, when Arsenal won unfairly in the FA Cup against Sheffield United, and they agreed the result should not stand, and the match be replayed.
Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni was clearly devastated but remarkably restrained whilst Henry’s ‘I am not the ref’ defence adds him to a list of cheating sporting infamy headed by Diego Maradona. But at least Maradona was never made out to be a better human being than everyone else.
So if no action can be taken against Henry, or the dozy ref and linesman, or the French authorities who have now seen the replays, what can the rest of us do? Well, not a lot. But as I shaved this morning, I remembered those irritating Gillette ads Henry does with Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.
Why did he land a lucrative contract that? Because he is a great footballer and he has a good image.
Half shaved, I dumped my Gillette razor in the bin and have been down to the shop to buy a non Gillette replacement.
If enough people do it, and Gillette get to hear about it, maybe he’ll get dropped and lose one of the noughts off his bank balance. He won’t care that much, I don’t suppose. He certainly wouldn’t hurt as much as the Irish players will today. But sometimes, futile gestures are all we have.
Off to tell Fiona we may have to get rid of the Renault Clio. Va va voom indeed – French for anything goes. Cheat.