Will the introduction of VAR put an end to all football controversies?
Gianluigi Buffon is the perfect gentleman. The iconic captain of Italy and Juventus had seen it all and at 40 was hoping for that one trophy that had eluded him all his career. He was proud of his teammates who had bravely battled Real Madrid and had drawn level after trailing 3;0 from the first leg.
Extra time beckoned, and he was hoping that this day of utmost effort would produce a miracle and send the Bianconeri into the semifinal while simultaneously knocking out the biggest threat to the great man's quest for the Champions League trophy. Toni Kroos then lofted the ball into the box onto the head of Cristiano Ronaldo, who lay it on a plate for Lucas Vazquez to score.
Medhi Benatia saw the danger of this move and decided the goal would not happen on his watch. It is a matter of opinion if you think Benatia fouled or didn't foul Vazquez, but the referee did and pointed to the spot.
Suddenly, in a matter of seconds the captain's dream of one final hurrah turned into a nightmare. The Italian captain went berserk and ended up screaming at and pushing the referee, which resulted in his dismissal from the game and a loss for the Biaconeri.
Make no mistake about it, football fans are a passionate bunch, and nothing fuels passion like controversy. The controversy and differences in opinion generated by the decision of Michael Oliver to award a penalty and send off Buffon sent out ripples through the footballing world. Everybody wanted to talk about VAR and how things would have been different if it was in use.
The beautiful game has finally evolved by incorporating technology to help reduce the controversies that refereeing decisions bring about. The goal line technology and the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) have been slowly introduced into the game to bring this desired effect.
The 2018-2019 season has seen the introduction of VAR to the La Liga and Serie A, with the Premier League set to follow from the 2019-2020 season. The question is: will the introduction of VAR bring an end to all football controversies?
In 2018, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) wrote the use of VARs into the laws of the game following extensive trials in major competitions. The VAR is supposed to make only four types of calls: goals or goal-related incidents (off-sides or fouls), penalty decisions, direct red card decisions and cases of mistaken identity.
But football, perhaps more than any other sport, is one of opinions and philosophies. Six months after the incident of the quarterfinal clash there is still difference in opinion on what the right decision was despite all the replays, slow motion pictures and explanation of football laws.
The presence or absence of VAR will not suddenly make everyone agree with whatever decision the referee finally decides on. So while this is a good move by the football authorities, we can be sure that on-field controversies will still rear their ugly head every once in a while.