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Henry retires from French team

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French soccer star Thierry Henry gets a rooftop view of New York after an interview, Thursday, July 15, 2010. Henry is retiring from the French national team. French soccer star Thierry Henry gets a rooftop view of New York after an interview, Thursday, July 15, 2010. Henry is retiring from the French national team.

NEW YORK (AP) — Thierry Henry said Thursday he is retiring from the French national team.

The 32-year-old forward announced his decision during an interview at the offices of The Associated Press before a news conference to discuss his signing with Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls.

Henry, a member of the French teams that won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship, said he will not 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 Bafana Bafana, when he was introduced as a 55th minute substitute in a 2-1 defeat that condemned France to a first-round exit from the World Cup.

"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 said he had made up his mind to retire before the World Cup.

"I couldn't announce it before because that's the not type of thing you announce before a World Cup," he said.

The French players went on strike and refused to train before their final match of the World Cup after striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for verbally abusing 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 (club) 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 year's World Cup was the lowest point in his career. The 2002 World Cup in Japan and 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 moving to New York, Henry realizes he could draw the ire of a large Irish community. Last November, Henry handled the ball twice with his left hand before poking it to William Gallas for an 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 handball call that was missed recently.

"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," Henry said.

With the Red Bulls, Henry will go back to playing as a central forward 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 4½ 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 will be more than a friendly for Henry.

"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."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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