Yes, Henry misses England

There were several clues that this was not an ordinary football interview. Sitting opposite Thierry Henry was one of them — but the most obvious was the instruction not to mention football.

Henry flew into London after Barcelona’s Champions League victory away to VfB Stuttgart on Tuesday to promote a collection of clothes by Tommy Hilfiger, profits from which are going to One 4 All, the anti-racist foundation backed by the French player. Fortunately, Henry likes talking about football, which was just as well — attempts to weave soccer into questions about fashion became tiring.

Last weekend, Henry scored his first hattrick for Barcelona (away to Levante) since leaving Arsenal. A hattrick is a sort of football fashion statement, isn’t it, a way of telling a new set of supporters that you have arrived? “They wanted me to score,” he said. “I f you give 100% , they recognise that, but scoring three goals, as you say, it is a statement.”

The Thierry Henry Capsule Collection was influenced by the player’s “grace and charisma”.

Presumably Hilfiger could have chosen any number of footballers, but Henry is a star, a fact borne out by the jostling fans who stood outside the Hilfiger store in Regent Street and cheered as he stood in the window and grinned at them.

“It’s always the thing I am fighting against; stars, heroes, icons,” he said. “What is a star? At night I see them in the skies, but if you kick a ball, I don’t know if you can call that a star. I think if you look in the dictionary they won’t put ‘football player who plays for Arsenal’ or whatever. Players never call themselves stars; people give you names.”

There is a theory that Henry became too big a star for Arsenal and his transfer liberated the team’s youngsters, who were inhibited by his presence. Henry did not like it, though, when reference was made to “Thierry Henry’s Arsenal” rather than plain Arsenal.

“That was annoying because it’s Arsenal playing and people get sucked into it,” he said. “Football has always been a team effort and always will be .”

So, is he enjoying playing for Barcelona and not Thierry Henry’s Barcelona?

“It’s the same thing — now it’s Lionel Messi’s Barcelona,” he said. “Then it’s going to be another player. They always find a player because there is always a player who shines more at times. You have to live with it. We don’t get sucked into it. You never hear a player saying he is more important.”

Arsenal were not expected to thrive without Henry, but they lead the Premier League, having delivered performances of flair and steel. Has Henry noticed anything different?

“The only thing is the last two seasons we didn’t start well,” he said. “This season they did . I know and the boss [Arsène Wenger] knew what the players were capable of doing. Sometimes it is not always easy.

“Two years ago, Chelsea had an amazing year, Manchester United last year had an amazing year. There is quality [at Arsenal], you don’t reach a Champions League final just like this, so it was always going to come. To find out [how] you have to go inside the head of Arsène Wenger and that’s more difficult; he pulls the strings.”

Henry continues to watch Premier League matches and retains a love for English football. “There’s the type of game you can see only in England; 4-1 [the scoreline in Aston Villa’s favour away to Tottenham Hotspur on Monday] with 20 minutes to go and then it’s 4-4. It was 7-4 in Portsmouth against Reading. In two games you have almost 20 goals. It’s ridiculous — not in a bad way but ridiculous, like wow, but that’s the Premiership. If you go to get a bottle of water from your fridge you can miss two goals.”

Does the forward miss those rollercoaster games?

“Not just that, everything,” he said. “Everything about the Premiership, everything about England. The stadiums always full, the whole thing on Saturday, everyone raving about going to the game, going to the stadium, waking up early, walking to the stadium, going to the pub afterwards, talking about the game for the whole weekend.”

Oh, and in case you were wondering, his favourite colour is blue.

“But I don’t wear it,” he said, “that’s weird, huh? It’s difficult to match blue.”

(Courtesy: thetimes.co.za)

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