For many years football has asked for technology. UEFA decided to bring VAR into the Champions League in January in order to sort out ‘clear and obvious decisions’.
‘Can somebody please tell me what clear and obvious is?’ said BT Sport Host Gary Lineker to ex ref turned pundit Peter Walton, as TV discussed Danny Rose’s handball from a Raheem Sterling shot in The Champions League first leg quarter final between Tottenham and Manchester City last week.
Lineker’s view echoes what many football fans think. As delirium turned to heartbreak at the Etihad Stadium last night, Man City fans probably wanted the use of VAR to be shelved right back in the wardrobe and never be brought out again. Twelve months ago though, when Guardiola’s side played Liverpool when VAR was inactive, City fans sung loudly from the rooftops for UEFA to be included in European games.
Technology in football is a rather funny thing. If it works in your favour you become a fan, if works against your team fans seem to want nothing to do with the system.
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has always had is reservations where VAR is concerned, on Wednesday night he may just have found a new ally. On the other side of the touchline, Pep Guardiola, leading advocate for video assistance in football, his reaction as referee Cuneyt Cakir disallowed Sterling’s near but not so near winner was one of heartbreak.
Whatever the answer, VAR’s way of clearing up problems is throwing up more heartbreak than anyone may have thought. On another note, the time taken for the whole thing to work needs much looking at in the close season.
The atmosphere inside the Etihad become a church graveyard. All starting when the stadium announcer calls ‘VAR in review’. Then there is silence, pure silence. 54,000 fans cramped in one building and you can hear a pin drop.
Anticipation or dread may well be the answer. But staring at an empty blue screen stating, ‘Goal in review’ can only kill an atmosphere. Twice in one half is quite simply no good for fans, especially when they have no clue what the match day official is being told or why he has his hand to an earpiece.
This happened when PSG played United last month. Before Marcus Rashford tucked away an injury time penalty winner, The crowd inside Le Parc des Princes found no words to describe their emotions as somehow a trio of pitch side officials plus a man by a computer could send the French Champions out of Europe.
Again at Tottenham’s new ground last week in the run-up to Aguero’s penalty miss, VAR made thousands of excited home fans go silent. Did the eventual decision clear up or answer the question of whether a penalty should or should not have been given. Not really.
Slowing the action down does not mean a decision is correctly awarded. Handball shouts and appeals like Danny Rose, VAR’s use is welcomed, all be it with a pince of salt and a cheesy smile.