The VAR World Cup

The video-assisted referee (VAR), according to a Telegraph article, is meant to assist the referee to make decisions that may have skipped his attention during a match, or correct the wrong ones he makes. The Russia world cup is the first world cup ever to use VAR. There are only four things that the VAR can be brought in to use, goals, penalties, straight red cards and my personal favorite, mistaken identity. (Arsenal fans with long memories will remember a game against Chelsea where the referee, Andre Marriner, sent off Kieran Gibbs instead of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain)

Apparently, there have only been five uses of VAR use in the World Cup, but it feels like ten more. This BBC article analyzes each of these five decisions very eloquently, and from what I can tell, it has actually been pretty successful, with the game between Egypt and Russia a clear case where Mo Salah was dropped near and inside the Russia world cup, and the referee, who had made “a clear error” in awarding a freekick, then consulted VAR and a penalty was given. Mo Salah stepped up and scored, and everyone was happy.

My problem with VAR is the decisions it misses. The topic of pushing, kicking, hugging opposition for players is a well-worn one, and in some matches such as the England vs Tunisia game, Harry Kane was pushed down by the Tunisian Fergana Sassi, yet the VAR did not give a penalty for the clear foul which the referee missed. The game went on, and on such decisions, a match can depend on. My personal take is that VAR guys have been told that they should ignore pushing and shirt holding in the box and focus on other less debatable fouls like kicking or late tackles.

With its relative success so far, VAR is surely here to stay, just like other innovations brought about by technology have influenced soccer to something completely different than it was fifty years ago. It will be in some tournaments, and not in others, some countries and not in others, depending on all sorts of factors.


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