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VAR Is the way to go

If you’re not familiar with the terminology VAR by now, let me explain what it means.

VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee, very similar to the system that is used in cricket, tennis and rugby. It’s a form of TMO (Television Match Official) under a different name. Got it? Good.

VAR was recently used officially at the Fifa Confederation Cup in Russia, and it’s fair to say it got off to a rather shaky start.

There are those who love it and there are those who don’t want it at all.

Let’s explore those two options.

The people who want it, I suspect, are the many, many soccer followers who are sick and tired of the blatant cheating and diving that is going on in the modern game.

The sight of players lying prostrate on the ground like they’d been hit by a bus is despicable, disgusting and deplorable.

They are, by their actions, endeavouring to hoodwink the referee into not only getting a free kick, which might include a penalty, but also to have an opposition player either yellow carded or sent off.

That, in a nutshell, is what the modern game has descended into. I know many people and friends who are turning away from soccer because of the shenanigans of a small group of individuals apparently intent to bring the “beautiful game” into the gutter.

The people who don’t want it, in my opinion, are those who engage in such practices – and there are quite few.

What’s more disturbing is that some coaches and managers are encouraging this very unsporting behaviour.

I witnessed it personally some years ago when I was refereeing in South Africa. The coach was on the touch line telling one of his players to go down so he could come on the field and issue instructions to his team.

I realised what was happening. The player did go down, pretending to be injured. I was convinced he was not and refused to stop the game. The other team went on and almost scored. You have never seen a player who was supposedly injured get to his feet so quickly.

The referees have a major part to play. They need to be on their toes so that players who do engage in such behaviour are appropriately punished.

We are the guardians of the game, and it is our job to watch out for such practices and deal with them swiftly and appropriately.

I have always said that I would never criticise referees for what they ARE DOING. I criticise them for what they are NOT DOING.

Some referees are not doing their job and therein lies another problem.

Let’s take the final of the Confederation Cup 2017 between Germany and Chile.

The referee was Milord Masic from Serbia, who is generally a good referee, but he let himself and his fellow referees down badly on this occasion.

I can understand that he could have missed the deliberate elbow by Gonzalo Jara of Chile on Germany’s Timo Werner, because he was on the wrong side. However, when he viewed the incident on the VAR it was clear that it was violent conduct and Jara should have been red carded.

Television pictures showed Jara waiting in anticipation for the red card and the relief was palpable when the yellow card was flashed.

The referee, in my opinion, chickened out. He bottled it. Why?

Was it because he didn’t want to show a red card in a final?

Was it because Chile were already a goal down?

Was he (the ref), as has been suggested, instructed to go easy with his cards?

Either way, he did himself and his fellow referees no favours and gave ammunition to those who don’t want this system to work.

It’s an ideal tool in the armoury of match officials to finally put a stop to this “cancer” in our game once and for all.

Bring it on, I say, but the referees have to show some guts when necessary.

Happy whistling

Dr Errol Sweeney
Twitter – dr_errol

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