VAR is killing the game. it must go!

VAR....is killing football. 

How can anybody think VAR is an improvement to the game experience? This is killing football! VAR deflates all of the excitement and emotion that is the fabric of the game itself. You saw it this way and I saw it that way. All the fierceness and passion of competition needs no correction, no tampering with - not by technology.

Since the introduction of the English acronym VAR for Video Assistant Referee, football has begun to lose its very nature. It demystifies the magic that makes every match an event, the emotional rollercoaster we all love. VAR interrupts the natural emotional process of gut reactions, the athlete in each of us, the very essence of each yelp, howl, growl, grunt, leap, fist pounding, slap on the back or cheerful hug.

Quite simply, VAR confuses both players and supporters, and attempts to rewrite THE moment. VAR effectively removes fans from the game for the sake of accuracy. The phrase “Is it more important to be right than to be happy,” comes to mind. Even if on the losing side of the equation, this is the substance and debate that keeps us coming back for more. After all, football is “a theater for the spectator,” according to historian Paul Dietschy. Nowhere in the game is there room for buzz-killing. This is a sport of passion. 

VAR has created a culture where often tiny and inconsequential incidents, overlooked by the referee and most of the players, can be manifested into match-deciding penalties and red cards. The irony in it is that the often blatantly, obvious fouls go unpunished. Still, we’d rather have the heartache and bitterness than the alternative.

Spain’s Thiago Alcantara complained that he hated VAR because it had taken away fooling the ref and getting away with it. This showmanship is as much a part of the game as every play, and an art in and of itself.

The beauty of football, like any sport with so few opportunities to score, is that rare moment and the spectrum of emotion that goes along with it, sometimes in the span of just a few seconds, often ranging from anguish to jubilation. One thing is certain, football is an event full of unpredictability and volatility.

That's why we love football, for the enchanting dance it is. The drama. The flair. The elegance. The trickery. When his club of hearts scores a goal, the stadium experiences a very palpable emotion. We scream, we jump, we hug our neighbor. However, fans fear that VAR is killing the passion and distorting the very essence of football, replacing it with rolling eyes and cynicism. We start holding back out of fear, just waiting for the letdown. Is this how the game was meant to feel?

The corporate component is not new. One has only to remember the influence played between Adidas and Puma in the heart of the 1970’s to be convinced of this. The incredible amount of money at stake does not mesh well with the unforeseen or the improbable. The unexpected or human error must be reduced to a minimal, negligible portion of chance for the ROI to remain strong... FIFA decided that the reign of Goal Line Technology and VAR was to be established on earth and in the heavens introducing a new, unsurpassable horizon.

 

To FIFA, it was a necessary evil: no more injustice, no more arbitration favoring the big clubs, and instead to rely on fact, science, reason. Has Infantino measured the risk, for himself and for the jackpot of FIFA, of seeing football demoted to the rank of third or fourth sport in the world? He seems to ignore everything about the game and only care about its financial issues and opportunities. Let this be a reminder that this IS the people’s game, played virtually anywhere, anytime, by anyone.

The fact is that FIFA does not understand that they are suppressing raw emotion, which is the essence of this game. Their attempt to substitute it for the illusion of justice says it all. Ask Americans how they feel about the gross commercialization of sports? Sure, the athletes are one thing, but the game experience?

Above all they simply want to change football itself and make it the instrument of the greatest possible profit. Soon, if we do not try to stop them, it will be like any NFL, MLB, NBA game with sponsoring - in double screen admittedly, during the stoppages caused by video arbitration.

The intention of the lobbyists of this technology is now clear: to slice up football matches like one slices up an American football match. Don’t get us wrong; of course owners of club teams must generate enough revenue to keep the team alive first and foremost, then generate even more in the hopes to reach the highest level in their home country or Champions League, but how much is enough?

Those who support VAR will always be able to hide behind the illusion of perfect justice afforded them by the system. It's impossible. Interpreting a play by reviewing 12 slow motion angles is ridiculous. The game was designed and must remain interpreted in the spirit. Any little push to gain better position to the ball, viewed in slow motion turns into a major aggression!

The Times stated, “Everyone who said VAR was going to destroy emotion in football should have been there. It actually increased it tenfold.” Indeed, according to the British newspaper, video assistance creates new emotions instead of "killing" them… Yes, indeed. It’s creating emotions of detest and hate for this system!!!

Decisions, often given late, create a new reaction: we no longer dare to react in the moment, reacting to a decision of the VAR instead. Picture moments in life where your child cannot jump onto you but has to stop and look at a screen to see if it is ok. Or imagine your wife passionately kissing you...now hitting the pause button for one minute to see if it is ok or not… Get it? We wish Infantino and his team understood this basic concept. 

The entire planet watches the sport. We watch to experience moments of complete drunkenness, pure ecstasy, rage. We also would prefer more goals, not less. A finger or toe offside is NOT an advantage gained by the forward. Let‘s go back to the roots and stop the geometry lesson nonsense! 

Simone Inzaghi, coach of Lazio, said “...it takes away the emotions of football, to us and to the tifosi. After a goal, we don't kiss anymore, we look at the referee. It takes away the adrenaline and the taste for football.”

If we have the privilege to go to the stadium, it is for the experience of being filled with emotion. If these experiences become conditional on waiting for the referee to validate a goal after having previously discussed with his assistants in a truck, there really is no more interest.

Anthropologist Abdu Gnaba says, “You are born at the start of a match, you die at the end, in the middle you live in tragic tension. It sends us back to a feeling of fear. But this fear, even this terror, can be aroused by fleeting moments of plenitude.”

VAR was put in place for the sake of justice. However, the very essence of football is about instant emotions and emotional injustices rather than wasted celebrations and cold justice. It is necessary to simplify the work of the referees as much as possible, but at what cost?

These infractions are part of the game. The only justice in this sport is to start the game on an equal footing with a score of 0-0 and eleven players on each side. The rest is injustice and dramaturgy with the only conviction being scoring one more goal than your opponent. The fact that nothing is shown of the play review to the fans in the stadium also contributes to the distrust of VAR.

The French dancer and choreographer, Pierre Rigal, details these grievances by saying, “In life, you are on the lookout for the unexpected, you try to adapt to events that happen. A football game is what is condensed. We condense the random, the improvisation, the adaptation. We live in a very concentrated way an entire life with its uncertainties and injustices.”

If today the need for justice is so paramount, it is certainly not due to the sudden appearance of virtue in the world of football, but rather economic interests which have become more important than the emotions of the fan. These faults are in reality injustices only in the eyes of investors seeing their business hampered. Because of this, errors are now considered intolerable. 

We have had legendary calls missing obvious aggressions or hand balls, but are now moving to the opposite side of the spectrum calling offsides for 1 cm infraction of a toe or finger. Football should, above all, be about joy and sharing, even if there are injustices. After all, would there have been the same osmosis between the Blues of Hidalgo and the French public during Euro 1984 if the latter had not felt aggrieved two years earlier on a summer evening in Seville? Without his famous Mano de Dios, would Maradona be as adored as he is today in Argentina and around the world? 

Referees are now just waiting for their VAR assistants to tell them what to do. They are ready to unload the weight of responsibility, the burden of making the right call. Here, we are in the midst of pure propaganda. Welcome to Big Brother. 

Platini had started (wisely) to put a strategy in place to require six officials to referee each game. It would have been an excellent solution. In societies where unemployment rates are soaring, why not hire ex-players who did not make a fortune during their playing careers (D2-D3) and have six refs in every major country league, as well as major competitions?  

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