• Pablo Lario

VAR: A Pain In The Ass!?

VAR, VAR, VAR... Who doesn't love "our friendly" VAR (Video Assistant Referee)?

If you start talking about "this annoying topic" with your brother, your friends, or even your nan, you'll always see there's pros and cons about VAR. However, in the end, everyone comes to the general consensus that VAR will "eventually" be good. That the problems it has right now are simply teething issues.

VAR is necessary. VAR is inevitable. VAR will ultimately be good for the game. That's why all those rich UEFA, FIFA, and "other irrelevant football associations" presidents out there want us to think. But, will VAR really make football any better?

What can I say? I totally disagree. I enjoy football in all its splendour, its rivalry, its intensity, its audacity, its enjoyment. However, I believe that while VAR will not ruin the game, it will clearly change football in a way that makes it tangibly, permanently worse.

Football; "the best sport in the world." Is that statement even true anymore? If you look at the game now, there are obvious things to football like how easily it is to play or watch it, and that the rules are relatively simple, so they're very easy to understand (Even for you, OK?). It's aesthetically pleasing, fast-paced, athletic, skilful etc... All those things are great, but I feel the most important factor is getting lost thanks to VAR; the actual nature of the game .

There is no guarantee of a win for either side, there is not even a guarantee of goals. Goals are indeed relatively rare compared to most other sports. The individual scoring unit in cricket, basketball, tennis or even rugby are very different and more common. And there is the issue of variable reward since a 0-0 is the default state which may never change. The key is that without any guarantee of a result, let alone a goal, when a goal does come it does so in a huge release of nervous energy, fear, hope and tension. Such a release is magnified by context; time of the game, a comeback, against your rivals, against all odds, near the end of the season etc. etc. The football scoring unit is rare and uncertain, the tension magnifiers are many.

In short, football is almost perfectly designed to produce a near-orgasmic release when a goal is scored (I know this from my own experience, OK? Don't think badly). This is the prime reason why the game is so good to watch.

But, when VAR was introduced, it all changed. Imagine your team scores a goal, and they start checking "for hours" if it was offside or not. Would you celebrate the same way as you did at first? Or would you actually take a moment to look at the ref to see if you can celebrate without imminent contradiction? If you do that even for a second that instant moment of release will be muted. VAR is nice, efficient (depends if is a good decision for your favourite team), and helps out in many aspects of the game, but if it gets in the way of the most important basis of football; oh, well...

Yet, football can still stop this. It might be painful, we would have to accept the fallibility of referees again, but the game will be better off for it. And we could consider VAR for some things; half time review of the tapes to catch things that would incur a ban; terrible tackles gone unnoticed, obvious dives. If you knew you would be caught, you wouldn't try them in the first place but crucially, there would be no pause in the game.

With even the slightest pause on a goal though, it removes the most critical aspect that makes football the greatest game on earth. Yes!; we hate mistakes, we hate dives and we hate it when it's our team that suffers. But, if the referees are at least unbiased (and most in the big football leagues surely are), we should be able to accept it. And hell, it gives us something to talk about. Give in to the pitch-forked masses claims about how mistakes are ruining the game and it will never quite be the same again.

In the end, VAR will make the game worse not matter how well implemented it is. Sadly (at least for now), what can we do about it? We'll just need to keep debating and dream that one day this VAR "intruder" finally fits perfectly, or just runs away from all the stadiums (If Barcelona wins the treble this season thanks to VAR, maybe I'll change my mind about it).

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