Technology in football has come in the shape of goal-line technology, higher definition cameras, stadium effects and more. But the most technological controversy has been the Virtual Assistant Referee. The VAR technology was introduced to make officiating easier for referees. But so far it has brought more controversy than precision. Perhaps the game needs more men with whistles or maybe the system needs authentic revision. Because as it stands, VARs have only succeeded in making more foes than fans. Here are 5 controversial historic moments highlighting costly mistakes made by VAR in football matches.
The biggest names in the game have been controversially robbed. This is due to a long line of historic mishaps involving VAR use in football since its application in the game. The expressions on the faces of football fans, managers and even club owners would have shown their disappointment if we saw them every time the VAR made costly mistakes.Certainly, this matches highlighted here show how many times the system has come under fire.
1) 2019 Semi-Final Copa America
(Argentina vs. Brazil)
20 minutes left on the clock made the difference in the CONMEBOL semi-finals. It was between Argentina and Brazil. The high profile maintained by this fixture explained the furious criticism that came after it. The CONMEBOL Semi’s marking the first game analysis for costly mistakes made by VAR.
The VAR was having a good run until Sergio Aguero, while attending to a pass from Lionel Messi, fell under a Brazilian Dani Alves’ challenge. The clearance by Gabriel Jesus resulted in the second goal of the match scored by Roberto Firmino.
The second occurrence involved Arthur seemingly deliberately shoving Nicholas Otamendi, as the brilliant Argentine was about to meet a left-wing corner.
It is easy to argue that the referee would not call these two incidents, but humans see the intentions of malicious players better than machines. This controversy led to a 3-2 defeat to Argentina.
This dispute inspired a statement from Lionel Messi: “There is no doubt, the whole thing is set up for Brazil, I hope the VAR and referees don’t play any part in the final and that Peru can compete but it looks tough to me”.
2) 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League Game
(Manchester City vs Tottenham)
Both teams had worked extra hard the previous season to make it to the 2018/2019 Champions League Season. Then it was time to decide which of the English teams mattered more in the world of football. Yet again VAR played a big part in another controversy. This time the VAR disallowed a Raheem Sterling goal to get the scores level at 4-4. The game ended 4-3 in favour of Tottenham.
Number 7s goal seemed to have saved the day when he got a sublime pass from Sergio which was then ruled for offside. The VAR determined that Sergio was offside before the ball got to him, thereby rendering the goal null and void. Sterling would have gotten a hat-trick but settled for a brace.
The 4-3 score line meant Tottenham would go ahead on away goals.
3) 2018-2019 Champions League Game
(Man U vs PSG)
One of the most difficult issues for the VAR to settle has involved handballs. The normal ruling by the human referee has a different approach. If the ball touches the player when the hands are positioned too far away from the body, it’s a handball. While a situation involving a ball touching the player’s hands when hidden or very close to the body is tagged as ball-to-hand.
This was seen in the game between the boys from Old Trafford and those from Paris. This game had more controversy than most Champions League Finals. And yes, VAR was again in the midst of one clear case. Dalot’s play for Manchester clearly hit PSG’s Kimpembe in the box. With tensions running high in the 89th minute, the VAR decided it was a penalty for a handball violation.
To the delight of Manchester faithful, a penalty was given which Marcus Rashford converted. This allowed Manchester United to go through to the last eight. But Neymar was as disappointed as the others at the Parc Des Princes. He couldn’t hide his anger and posted on Instagram: “This is a disgrace, four guys who know nothing about football watch a slow-motion in front of a television. It was nothing! What can Kimpembe do with his hand while his back is turned? Go f*** yourselves!”
4) 2019 AFCON final
(Senegal vs Algeria)
If you watched this game from Africa or any other part of the world, you would understand, what African Nations Cup Finals mean to football fans around the globe. And most certainly, many were not pleased with the officiating of the final. The one thing the VAR had problems observing, came back to haunt the game again; handball. Baghdad’s Bounedjah scored in the 2nd minute to put Algeria in front. Most of the proceedings were since then controlled by Algeria. The hard work seemed to have paid off for Sadio Mane and his team for Senegal. Ismaila Sarr’s cross hit Algeria’s Adlene Guedioura’s arm in the box. The referee had initially given a penalty but went back to the screen to consult the technological oracle. The VAR overturned his decision on the basis that the handball was not deliberate.
5) 2017-2018 Seria A
(Genoa vs. Juventus)
This game left legendary Gianluigi Buffon criticizing the application of the system.
Defender Daniele Rugani had fouled Genoa’s Anderej Galabinov. This led to a controversial penalty being awarded to Genoa which put them 2-0 ahead. However, Andrej was seen to have been offside before the foul, which under normal circumstances would have been ruled out. The VAR had other plans, but Juventus came back to win the game 4-2.
The Juventus fans may have had second thoughts about the system, but this game could have altered many decisions.
No doubt, technology makes life easier. But maybe its application in officiating the game of football has not yet been justified leading to many of the biggest names criticising the system. Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Neymar Jr., Buffon and a line up of other footballers, fans and managers have vented about their concern.
These are just 5 costly mistakes made by VAR of the many cases that brought VAR under intense scrutiny. Some pundits and fans are of the opinion that machines are needed in football, just not to do the job of a referee.