Johannesburg - Calls for a video assistant referee (VAR) have grown after two recent incidents.
The first one occurred at Old Trafford during the English Premier League (EPL) match between Manchester United and Brighton last Saturday. United won the game 1-0.
It was during the scoring of that goal that United’s £75 million (R1.4 billion) player, Romelu Lukaku, appeared to kick out at Brighton’s Gaëtan Bong not once, but twice.
In the subsequent melee, Ashley Young’s deflected strike went into the net and the goal was given. Referee Neil Swarbrick did not see the incident and, in fairness to him, his view was blocked by several players. The question is, should the assistant on that side of the field have seen it?
The Football Association referred it to three former Premier League referees for an independent review. Each agreed it was an offence that should have led to Lukaku being sent off the field. In other words, if the referee had seen it, he would have issued a red card.
To me, that’s a cop-out. It is either a sending-off offence or it isn’t. They said it was and they should have applied the ultimate sanction.
The second incident happened in the Spanish La Liga game between Valencia and league leaders Barcelona, which took place at the Mestalla Stadium last Sunday. During the match, Lionel Messi was denied a legitimate goal. Video footage clearly showed that the ball had crossed the line, but the referee did not see it.
The game finished in a 1-1 draw. Imagine the repercussions if Barcelona, who dropped two points in this game because of the disallowed goal, lose the title by one point?
EPL referees have a device on their wrist, which resembles a watch and can tell them if the ball has crossed the line between the uprights and under the bar. This can be done in seconds. It appears Spanish match officials do not have this technology.
It is time to introduce, where possible, the VAR system for many more reasons than those just mentioned. Players constantly question the referee’s decisions and it puts match officials, not only the referee, under enormous pressure.
There seems to be an endemic culture to question every decision, even though the player knows that what he is doing is wrong. Does this come from the player, or is he instructed by his coach to do it?
Should be used
The sight of players surrounding the referee – and, at times, going to the assistant on the line like a pack of animals baying for blood – has to stop. It will also put a stop to players deliberately trying to hoodwink the match officials by claiming to have been fouled and injured as a result of a knock by an opponent.
One sees old women being bumped on the street harder than some of these so-called professionals and they remain on their feet.
A quick look at the replay will solve this and prove conclusively what happened. Watch how quickly players will then latch on and focus more on playing instead of hoodwinking. And justice will not only be done, but be seen to be done.
There are so many cameras at games these days that it is possible to avail ourselves of this technology. I know it won’t be at all games, but where it is, it should be used.
Fifa does not want to sanction it, except in certain instances. Why not? How many times have we seen crowd trouble in the stands and the streets over a decision made by a referee that spectators disagreed with? Wouldn’t this solve a lot of the problems? Bring it in now and be done with it.
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