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My dearest readers ... When an unemployable friend of mine, who recently lost his front teeth in a fierce encounter with an idiot-hating hulk who stops predators preying on his women, asked me for an honest opinion on the newly-introduced Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system in the on-going 2018 World Cup in Russia, I had to tell it in a language he understands best.

“You see when you engage in the bedroom aerobics and you are about to reach your destination ... then someone says stop and moves you away. You know that feeling. That is what this darn VAR system thing is doing to football!” I blurted out. “Kliklikliklikliklikli ... I couldn’t have put it better my friend!” he fired back. Laughter filled the air as he took another gulp from his glass, while trying to replace his bloodstream with the finest from the Scottish distillers during our rendezvous weekend.

The dreaded VAR system, in all honesty, introduced for the first time by FIFA in the soccer fiesta currently taking place in the land of the bears and vodka, to put it mildly, is a complete abomination to the beautiful game.

Yes, the slide into reliance on machines began with the goal-line technology sometime ago and I could live with that but this VAR system is truly killing the raw spirit of the game. The sport that its favourite son, Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele to you), described as the ‘beautiful game’ is slowly losing its beauty with FIFA’s propensity to introduce too much technology, which only helps to steal away the human error and the emotions that naturally is tailor-made for the game of the billions.

Long before FIFA introduced this latest technology, English author of history and sports, Pete Davies had warned about the dangers of infiltrating the people’s game with too much technology before he lost his battle with cancer on September 8, 2015.

“Soccer is not about justice. It’s drama, and criminally wrong decisions against you are part and parcel of that!”
Much of the beauty about football, as the biggest Buccaneer I know, South Africa’s City Press Editor-in-Chief, Mondli Makhanya wrote over the weekend, lies in the fact that, more than 30 years on, the world still argues about and animatedly discusses incidents like Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘hand of God’ move in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal between Argentina and England.

“Just like the exquisite free kicks, overhead goals and slick lone runs into the box, borderline decisions are an essential fabric of the attractiveness of football. They make for memories and emotion-filled conversations. And now, we are killing all that,” Makhanya added in his article. I couldn’t agree more.

Take for instance, the Iran versus Spain game in which the VAR system was called upon to give a verdict on an off-side. Iran’s Saeid Ezatolahi slotted in an equaliser that would have made the score 1-1 and changed the complexion of the game. Instead of the referee and his assistants quickly making a decision on whether Ezatolahi had scored from an off-side position or not, they referred to a machine for a decision.

What followed were agonising seconds in which a committee sitting in a screen-crammed office played replays and made a call. They ruled the goal off-side and broke the Iranian hearts. The game resumed. In the world of the football that we know and love with purple passion, an instant decision would have been made.


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