By Dennis Mungai
Video Assistant Referee, otherwise known as VAR, was introduced in international football to assist the on field referees in making decisions. But in recent occasions people have questioned its impact on the game, on and off the field. From turning yellow cards to red cards, ruling out goals for offside or reverting penalty decisions, this technology has left many with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Take this season in the English Premier League for instance. First gameweek of the season, Manchester United face Wolves. At 1-0 and towards the end of the game, Wolves striker Sasa Kalajdzic jumps to head the ball to score from a set piece situation. United keeper Onana completely misses the ball and collides with the striker smack in the face. The VAR ruled out a penalty for Wolves, with Wolves coach causing tantrums so much that he got a yellow card. After much public outcry, the referees’ official body put out an apology the following week, admitting that Wolves should have been awarded the penalty. They eventually lost that game 1-0 .
Fast forward to when Liverpool faced Spurs. Luis Diaz scores a goal for Liverpool, but is adjuged to have been offside and the goal is ruled out. Again, the week after, official referee report puts out an apology saying there was an error in that decision making, thanks to VAR. The most recent case of Anthony Gordon’s goal againt Newcastle has everyone talking. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has called it an “absolute disgrace” and termed the goal being awarded as “completely embarrassing.”
The goal line technology is probably the only significance VAR has brought to the game. Since on field referees can’t play back their own memory of whether the ball crossed the line completely, the technology has helped and settled many debates on whether a goal should stand or not. The time wasted to complete the verification of whether goals should stand,or if a team should get a penalty or not is what is rubbing fans, players and managers the wrong way. All that time only for the eventual decision to be “falsely arrived at”, a common statement in the official referees’ reports.
Some have claimed for the VAR to be scraped off completely, while others want its “opinion” on matches to be significantly reduced. The sad reality is that Wolves will not get that penalty, which if they had scored, would have earned them a point. Neither will Luis Diaz get back his goal for Liverpool. Even worse, Arsenal’s unbeaten run in the league came to an end thanks to the Anthony Gordon goal. As Liverpool’s manager Klopp said after that match, “we are not children that we keep asking for a rematch every day, there’s nothing that can be done so we just move to the next game.”