Since its inception, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has been quite a revelation. Its acceptance might still not be as unequivocal, but VAR seems to have an ability to bring about abrupt alterations in the rate of many a heartbeat.
Taking one set of people from extreme ecstasy to inconceivable agony, the VAR fetches an illuminated hope and brings about boundless joy at times for another set. Just like what a child goes thorough when he is to be pierced a syringe he dreads of, VAR seems to fluctuate the feelings of people. VAR injects a serum of unadulterated happiness into a few, while for others, it may seem like a sudden jab of utter dismay.
Two weeks into the Premier League season that has introduced VAR, and we have already witnessed two goals disallowed by the new rule, one probably with higher stakes than others.
The score at Etihad in a match between Manchester City- the title favourites and Tottenham Hotspurs- the title contenders read 2-2 after 90 minutes. Raheem Sterling had first slotted home a delicious Kevin DeBruyne whip. Shortly after, Erik Lamely put in a scrumptious shot from outside the box. If the two goals had a similarity of individual brilliance in them, the next two goals looked like extreme opposites. Sergio Aguero scored a kind of goal that he is so used to, while the 5’ 8” Lucas Moura scored a kind of goal that nobody thought he could, winning an aerial battle with Kyle Walker. The game went into stoppage time with these four goals. In the second minute of the 240 borrowed seconds, Gabriel Jesus, along with millions of others thought City had scored the winner. Just like when Raheem Sterling, a few months back, thought City were going to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Last time out, people weren’t sure of what was to happen when football at Etihad had come to a standstill. VAR was quite new then. But this time, when referee stopped the game, millions of people around the world knew what could possibly happen.
“Not again!” Pep Guardiola, along with many others might have exclaimed.
The decision threatens to have its consequences far beyond this particular match. The kind of close margins that the title was decided in the last season, the VAR decision in the second game week of this season has the possibility of being discussed in the second last game week of the season. Such could be its significance.
Manchester City once again played while maintaining their incessant instinctive intensity to attack, but Mauricio Pochettino’s team had somehow managed a draw. A man sitting in London denied City their three points. And why would Pochettino complain? The only complain he would have is the way his team played at times.
“I love VAR. I’m not so happy with our performance,” is what the Spurs manager had to say.
“V-A-R” were the three letters that overshadowed everything else that happened in the match.
Guardiola, quite naturally on his part, reminded people of the last VAR case, if anybody had forgotten. He could not go completely against the new rule, neither could he completely accept it.
“Last season it was offside, this time it was handball,” the Manchester City manager said in the post-match talk. “If it was hands it was hands, the decision is made in London so there’s nothing I can do or say about it. We could do with a little more consistency, though. It that was hands by Aymeric Laporte why was Fernando Llorente not hands last season?”
The match had so much more to talk about. DeBruyne’s performance, Lamela’s shot, Lucas Moura scoring incredibly after 19 seconds on the pitch, Aguero’s spat with Guardiola and so much more. In a world without VAR, each of the things would have covered a greater part of the headlines than they have now.
For all the attention, Football is not the only sport where a decision from the officiating personnel can be overturned by the use of technology. Cricket’s review system, Hockey and Tennis’s ‘challenge’ are others to name a few.
But it is in this sport, that a pending decision is tending to expand the range of an ECG of an average spectator. Football has been that kind of a sport since its inception. VAR seems like just an enhancement of an already dramatic nature of the sport. The use of VAR might still be debated, but Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have twice showed it in as many years of the VAR era, that it certainly adds to the thrill that the sport has been providing.