The 2018 FIFA World Cup is already proving to be one of the most shocking, exciting and controversial tournaments in a long, long time. From last minute winners to giant killers, this tournament has showcased some of the most thrilling international matches we have experienced in decades.
Unfortunately, a lot of this entertainment you’ve seen on your screens has been tarnished by a different kind of screen altogether.
Before the commencement of the World Cup, the use of VAR had been pinned as another reason why this World Cup would be vastly different to any we’ve seen before, and in one respect they were completely right: we didn’t have players running around the field making box shapes with their fingers in Brazil…but in another respect, they were completely and utterly wrong: incorrect decisions are still a big talking point after most, if not every match as they so often have been before. In fact, incorrect decisions are being highlighted so much more because of the complacent nature of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
VAR was supposed to stop players crowding the referee after a challenge or after a decision has been made as in sports such as cricket and rugby; total and mutual respect is shown between the players and the man in charge. Its introduction into football, though, has done quite the opposite as shown in this year’s World Cup. On several occasions have the players and coaches surrounded the referee and officials, demanding him to resort to the little screen—this is not what the technology was supposed to spring.
Penalties awarded as a result of VAR, to Iran, France, Portugal and Australia have all been adjudged as unjust and highlighted as a potential mistake of the supposed unmistakable evidence VAR should provide.
Corrects decisions, though, have also been determined as a result of VAR. Iran’s goal that was disallowed was admittedly soul destroying, but a perfect example of what VAR should stand for. Spain’s last-minute equaliser that was, at first, judged offside was then correctly overturned to send them through as group winners.
But the successes of the technology haven’t stopped players, pundits and the public alike calling for the robot referee to be switched off. Thousands have taken to social to vent their frustration about VAR throughout the tournament, as too has Liverpool professional James Milner who called the system a “shambles”. Nordin Amrabat went one further as the Moroccan attacker explicitly criticised the technology on live television after their 2-2 draw with Spain.
Pundit and Chelsea legend Didier Drogba defended VAR, suggesting that it is not 100% yet and has a long way to come, which has left many wondering why it has been introduced into the biggest sporting competition in the world.