Video Assistant Referee – Good or Bad Move for Football?
Change they say, is one of the constant things in life.
However, there are some certain things that come with change. If you have been used to seeing one thing happen the same day all your life and someone pops in from nowhere and makes some modifications to that thing, it can be met with agreement or some sort of resistance and that’s the dilemma we are expected to face in the wake of the newly launched VAR, or Video Assistant Referee, which was brought into the limelight in Spain’s 2-0 victory over France.
For the benefit of those that didn’t have the opportunity to watch the match, here are some extended highlights
It was a pretty straightforward game with two European juggernauts locking horns in a friendly encounter. The Spaniards opened the scoring after our very own Laurent Koscielny conceded a penalty, but this was after Antoine Griezmann had a goal that was rightly disallowed after the referee consulted with the video assistant referee in a remote location. Apparently, the referee and VAR could communicate via the headset but it was really awkward seeing how it panned out, as Griezmann and his teammates had exchanged hugs with the home fans celebrating what they thought was a goal, only for it to be ruled out when the ref finished his discussions with the VAR.
There were some time lag as the events elapsed but France took it on the chin and got on with the game. Later on, Gerard Deulofeu scored a goal for Spain but the linesman was swift to raise his flag like he had some eagle-eyed vision or something but the ref decided to consult his VAR who probably did some video playback and analysis which took up to one minute. Then he overturned the decision of his linesman and awarded what proved to be the match winning goal for Spain.
Didier Deschamps was magnanimous with his comments after the game,
“It is verified and it is fair, why not?. It changes our football a little. It is against us today, but if we have to go through this, it will be the same for everyone.
It is the evolution of football. That is how it will be.”
Well, it’s just a friendly game that didn’t mean much to both sides, which was also a very good platform to use the VAR initiative, so it’s all well and good, but would Deschamps had made the same comments if it was in the European Championship finals? It’s one thing to have a goal disallowed when the game was tied at 0-0 and to top that, you were chasing the game at 0-1 then your opponent scores what is believed to be an offside goal, then it’s overturned? Some
Mourinhos *coughs* managers would go berserk.
The idea of the VAR worked its weight in gold in the game but there are other sides to it. Speaking in alignment with the initiative, the referee’s decision making was spot on, as he accepted to use the aid of the VAR to help him with such a huge footballing decision as awarding a goal. We can talk about countless occasions where goals were wrongly given or ruled out, so having this option can prove very vital in order to maintain transparency in the beautiful game. At first glance of Deulofeu’s effort, the linesman taught it was offside and did his job by raising his flag up. Many referees would have believed in their assistant’s judgment 100% and award a free kick to France but VAR proved that it was a wrong decision.
This would help in subsequent decisions like goals, penalty decisions, red cards and of course, the rare case of Andre Marriner awarding Kieran Gibbs a red card for an error committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. These are very key decisions that affect the outcome of games, so it would be nice if the VAR continues to be used in this regard.
My only delta with this technology is the time wasting bit. It took the ref one whole minute, I mean, a frigging minute to decide whether he wanted to award the goal to Spain or give France an indirect free kick. What if the linesman was actually right and it was actually an offside? A whole minute would have wasted and we would have come to the same decision that we should have had 60 seconds ago. Another delta would be the technical knowledge of the so-called ‘Video Assistant Referee’ – would he be as useless as those touchline Champions League officials that would see Javi Martinez foul Theo Walcott blatantly as still act like they saw nothing?
In the end, the pluses seem to overshadow the deltas but its going to be interesting to see how football teams embrace this change.
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