I wanted to start this piece with something along the lines of “the debate about VAR rages on”, or “football continues to discuss the positives and negatives of VAR”, but in all honesty, there seems no debate to be had anymore.
Through trials in Germany, Italy, Australia and now our fine isles, most have made their decision; everyone seems unanimously agreed that the introduction of VAR only serves to chokehold the emotion so inherent in the game.
Any discussion about VAR comes down to what you believe football is for; a tool for rewarding excellency through a running experiment of twenty-two people within strict parameters, or a subjective, expressive experience with a love for the unjust and the unwarranted.
Video Assisted Referees (to call them by their God-given name) trigger a stoppage in play so a man in an office a few miles away with a new Sky Plus package can award a penalty, solve mistaken identity, judge if a ball struck a hand and so on.
It seems there is one thing VAR takes away, immediacy, and one thing it cannot solve, subjectivity. Unlike cricket or tennis, many decisions in football are not clear-cut even with the gift of hindsight; a penalty for one person is not a penalty for another.
But the aspect of VAR I have most issue with is the argument from immediacy, and how it will take away or at least seriously damage that most precious delight; the goal celebration.
Take the moment a goal is scored. There’s a rising swell of the crowd as that round ball of inflated air reaches ever closer to the target, the movement on and off the ball influenced by momentum and speed, then a cross, a pass, a through ball, a slice, a punt, a shot, and bang the ball is over the line, rippling the net like displacing water, and the only sound you can let out as player or fan is a primeval scream.
The player who has been so fortunate as to provide this moment is in a state of trance, a condition of lunacy where rational thoughts are out of the question, where instinct comes to the fore and takes over his motor systems.
He hears that enormous sound of the crowd and reacts with whatever he can muster. Or it’s something like that I guess.
These reactions, revelries, celebrations are normally the point at which the scorer is at his most happy, and who can deny him. The instinct is to celebrate, to unleash some sort of physical display of happiness.
Whether it be pre-prepared or completely involuntary, goal celebrations have become some of the most defining moments in the game’s history.
rom Roger Milla’s dance and Alan Shearer’s raised hand, to ‘Gazza’s’ dentist chair and Cantona standing around looking for his mate with his turned-up collar.
Or king of all goal celebrations, Peter Crouch and his robot friend.
If Italy had had to wait for John in Brackley on his little refereeing screen to award a goal we may have one of the most special moments in football, Marco Tardelli’s rapturous, primeval scream.
Are we really improving the game if we need to get that boring piece of legislation called “the rules” out every time the ball is near the penalty area? I believe not, and it takes that immediacy out of the game, which is so essential and why so many people love the game.
I’ll admit, a lot of these examples of brilliant celebrations came from goals that would never have to be checked by VAR, but the point is that it’s the first step away from the nature of football we all love so much.
I fail to see how taking this subliminally instinctive nature out of football will make for a better game. I love the controversy, I love the arguments, and I love the celebrations even more.
As far as I’m concerned, keep football impure. Save those goal celebrations from extinction please.