‘It’s ridiculous, they shouldn’t be in the game.’ We scored a perfectly good goal that was ruled out for offside. The officials cost us two points. They said it was offside, that is a joke. People go on about VAR, they clearly need help. If this is the best, most-watched league in the world then give them all the help they need. It is a joke.

Charlie Austin wasn’t in the mood for clichés on Saturday, no time to mince words, and go on about what a decent performance this was, and how hopefully the display and the point would act as a catalyst for substantial improvements. Nope. Austin rather unloaded his incandescence over the officiating that he perceived to have denied Southampton three massive points, a sense of distaste echoed by his manager.

‘It is not good enough, the performance of the referee’, said Mark Hughes. ‘All we want in a game is the key match-defining moments to be correct. It is a skill, a talent and a referee has to have that or they won’t be at this level. The ref today is a little inexperienced.’ the manager continued. ‘It is unfortunate and a bad mistake. He admitted it on the pitch. I mean for goodness sake, he needed a bit of help. These decisions affect what we are trying to do here.’

For a man who doesn’t need much reason to bellyache at refereeing decisions, this scenario was like handing Hughes a loaded gun of whinges. And they weren’t without reason, Austin’s goal was very much legitimate and should have stood, and that may well have killed the game off in the Saints’ favour, secured a much-needed win, and eased the pressure on their Welsh manager. Yet before Austin’s moment, Watford should have add a stonewall penalty.

Hughes noted that as well, but dismissed it with ‘our goalkeeper could have saved it, but ours was a goal’ (not necessarily in those exact words). He also had a point in the clarity and definitive means of both situations, but just as Watford could have missed the penalty they weren’t given, who’s to say the Hornets wouldn’t have rallied, pulled off a mini-miracle to score three times after Austin’s goal that wasn’t given. Or had Watford been awarded a penalty, would events still transpire that would result in Austin getting to put the ball in the net? After all, hello, chaos theory!

But that’s a debate for another time. Clear and case in point here is the fact that wrong refereeing decisions were made. And they weren’t the only ones of the weekend. In Fulham’s game away to Liverpool, the Londoners looked to have taken the lead at Anfield when Aleksandar Mitrovic headed in a cross, only for the offside flag to cut short their celebrations, and just as Slavisa Jokanovic and his side were reeling from the decision, they would concede straight away at the other end. Replays showed Mitrovic might just have been onside, but, in the space of 14 seconds, instead of going a goal up, the Cottagers would go a goal down, on their way to sixth league defeat on the bounce.

‘Instead of being 1-0 up we are 1-0 down’, said Jokanovic afterwards. In this country you normally cannot show disrespect to a referee but it is a little bit of a problem when they show disrespect to myself, my team and the Fulham supporters. The situation was a little bit complicated but you have to be sure to make this decision.’

They need help. You have to be sure to make this decision. Key match-defining moments to be correct. Those are the key and pertinent words, which all just about lead to the same thing: VAR. Of the top five leagues in Europe, the Premier League is the only one still to adopt the Video Assistant Referees, and the decision to not implement the technology for this season means every decision with a semblance of controversy, any officiating issue gets the same reaction; why didn’t you get VAR?

That has been on the rife since this season begun, last season in fact, and will continue till such a time when Premier League chooses to espouse the video technology. Premier League referees need help, is the saying; but here’s a rather absurd question, are Premier League referees starting to show that they want help? It’s outlandish to state that a referee does not want to do his job properly, and this is in no way implying that. But perhaps there is laxity in their decision-making? Perhaps the Premier League referees look at the referees in other leagues and think ‘well, they’re getting help, why shouldn’t we?’ The vote as to whether the English top-flight should adopt the technology, which happened last April and went against VAR, involved the Premier League clubs, but took into little account referees, the men who would, after all, be at the forefront of these decisions.

This is not to say VAR is perfect; far from it – this column in itself is quite vocally anti-VAR, and decisions in other leagues have also highlighted its flaws. Bundesliga clubs have branded it a shambles in many cases, with some of their clubs’ Twitter accounts bellowing ‘VAR you kidding me’ on occasion, and in this same concluded weekend, in Barcelona’s La Liga loss to Real Betis, it also showed that VAR, being ultimately subject to human interpretation, will continue to have its itchy moments. But it would still help in cases, eliminate some elements of controversy, and, in the case of the referees, will shift the hands of blame from them to the technology.

It does seem only a matter of time before VAR is implemented in the Premier League, with its domestic cups already implementing them, and the technology already being deployed in the league in September, although that was said to have no communication with any of the games then. It’s only a matter of time before VAR makes it entry in the league, but until then, referees continue to remain in the firing line. Continue to be the subject of player, manager and fan fury. Continue to need help.

Elsewhere

  • Despite the refereeing uproar in the Southampton-Watford and Liverpool-Fulham games, the most baffling decision of the weekend came in its first game at the Cardiff City stadium, where Sol Bamba scored a late winner for the hosts, took off his shirt in celebration, yet wasn’t booked. According to Bamba, he was asked by the referee if he took off his shirt, and he said no, thereby escaping a booking.
Is it just us, or does it look like he took off his shirt here
  • It finished goalless at the King Power stadium, but that was hardly relevant. This was a first game for Leicester since the passing of their chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, with their immediate past three managers around to pay their respects.
  • It was derby delight for Manchester City, who looked a cut and a half above their neighbours Manchester United, in a 3-1 win that didn’t flatter the champions. United are 12 points behind the leaders with 12 games played. For all their recent comebacks, erasing that deficit would be the greatest recovery of all.
  • Glass half-empty: Wolves are winless in four; Arsenal have one win in five. Glass half-full: Arsenal are unbeaten in 16, and demonstrated their resolve to rescue a point in a game where they looked well below-par; Wolves have taken points against Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United.
  • Bottom in October, Newcastle have shot up the table. Two wins and into the comparatively lofty heights of 14th.

Results

Southampton 1-1 Watford

Manchester City 3-1 Manchester United

Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham

Leicester 0-0 Burnley

Cardiff 2-1 Brighton

Chelsea 0-0 Everton

Huddersfield 1-1 West Ham

Liverpool 2-0 Fulham

Arsenal 1-1 Wolves

Newcastle 2-1 Bournemouth

 

Published in International Watch

UEFA has announced that the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be used in the Champions League starting from the 2019-2020 season.

The decision was said to have been taken at a meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee at the European Football in Nyon on Thursday morning.

UEFA, who confirmed that the VAR would only be used of the Champions League from the play-off stage also said UEFA plans to subsequently introduce the technology from the group stage of the 2020-2021 Europa League.

“We are confident that introducing Video Assistant Referee in August 2019 will give us enough time to put in place a robust system and to train match officials to ensure an efficient and successful implementation of VAR in the UEFA Champions League, the world’s flagship competition,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said.

Asides introducing VAR to the Champions and Europa League, VAR will also be used 2019 Super Cup and UEFA EURO 2020.

 

 

 

Published in International Watch

So, that’ll ease our appetite a bit. Our impatience for the World Cup to begin came to an end today, when Russia took home soil to host Saudi Arabia, and Vladimir Putting gave a speech, which spotkick cannot translate. Day One has come and gone, and the footprints dropped in the Mundial are already looking significant:

Good Day For…

Russia: Duh!! Going into the World Cup as the lowest-ranked team, winless since last October, and under pressure at home, Russia needed to get off to a good start against Saudi Arabia. A win was imperative, to get morale and get the fans onside. Surely scoring five without conceding was beyond their dreams. The quality of the opposition wasn’t that good, in truth, but this is the World Cup, as any slip up is bound to be costly, any opportunity must be cashed in on. This start doesn’t just get the fans buoyant and jubilant, the goal-margin also them looking intently at the next round already, a point in their second game, and goal difference might just be enough to swing them through to the last 16.

Denis Cheryshev: Copa Del Rey legend and Son of Rafa Benitez, Cheryshev missed out on the final list for the 2014 World Cup, and was injured for EURO 2016, so despite having started this World Cup on the bench, he’d have been glad to have been part of it anyway. The former Sevilla man certainly didn’t expect to get on so early, but after 22 minutes, Alan Dzagoev pulled what looked like his hamstring, prompting his arrival, and on the cusp of half-time, the substitute got on the score sheet. That was one of Cheryshev’s two strikes, the first brilliantly worked, the second expertly-placed, as he made he’d be remembered as the man who bagged an opening day brace, not forgotten as this World Cup’s second goal scorer. In tournaments like this, surely he’s cemented a starting place in Russia’s next game.

Aleksandr Golovin: On our list of 10 potential breakout stars in this World Cup, Golovin didn’t disappoint on opening day. His crosses for Russia’s first and third goals were inch-perfect, his free-kick to seal the win brilliant, and it was his industry and awareness that made the second goal. By World Cup standards, he may have already earned his move to a bigger club.

VAR: Yes, on the cliché that nl''o news is good news'. VAR wasn’t needed in this game, even though some of us were wary the first goal might have been chalked off. Speaking of…

Yuri Gazinsky: Joined the hall of Diop, Sampaio, Lahm, Tshabalala, etc. as the players who have bagged the first goal at a FIFA World Cup tournament. One for the quiz world in the year 2024.

Bad Day For…

Saudi Arabia: Dear oh dear, this was a horror show. Having watched Saudi Arabia in their World Cup warm-up games, I expected a bit more than losing by such a margin. The Saudis were great on the ball in their warm-up games, against Germany not least, rattling Die Mannschaft’s defence. They weren’t bad on the ball in this game either, it was their off-the-ball display that was the problem, especially with their defence, which had so much space, you could pay rent to use it. They face Uruguay next, and an attack of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, and they could well be the first side to be eliminated. To think Shehu Idris tipped them as his surprise packages for the tournament.

Alan Dzagoev: Pulling up with what seemed like a hamstring strain after 22 minutes, Dzagoev will hope his injury isn’t as serious as it initially looked, or else his tournament lasted less than half an hour.

VAR: Wait, hang on. Sure, the technology wasn’t deployed in this game, but that means you should spare a thought for the three officials who dressed to go behind the VAR screen, doing just about nothing all-game. They’ll still get paid, right?

Published in International Watch

By Oluwaseun Alsehinloye

1. Super Eagles Beautiful Jersey.

This jersey was reported to have sold out under three minutes – and it will always be in discourse throughout the tournament even when the Nigerian team is out of the competition. My expected moment will be Messi and co chasing Nigerian players to exchange jerseys after the final whistle since Nike had decided not to produce again. I also expect our Twitter family to mock the Super Eagles elimination by blaming it on the hype on the jersey.

2. Racism

The second on the list is the dreaded ‘Racism’. Russia is one of the major hubs for racist chants in the world. Recently, the Independent report on its website in April revealed how Monkey chants were aimed at black French players during France's 3-1 friendly win over Russia in St. Petersburg in April. FIFA investigated the issue and fine Russian FA but still, I can predict one or two issues of it to make headlines.

Backtrack to 2010 when former Nigerian international Osaze Odemwingie had a taste of the racist act that is putting enormous disrepute on Russian football. Upon moving to West Bromich Albion in the year 2010, Lokomotiv Moscow fans were seen in a game displaying banners at their stadium containing Banana, and thanking West Brom for buying Osaze.

3. FIFA World Best Player, Who deserves it?

The World Best Player Award given by FIFA is believed to be determined by the performance of players at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The likes of Mo Salah, Neymar, Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo claim of the prestigious award will be based on their individual performance and how far their countries fare at the World Cup.

Many believed this is Lionel Messi and Argentina year since they have gotten to three finals in their three last three competitions (Two Copa America finals lost to Chile both on penalties and Mario Gotze trophy-winning goal at the last World Cup in Brazil).

The Arab world and neutral Africans ( those not a diehard fans of either of Cristiano Ronaldo or Messi), will love to see Mohammed Salah shake-off the alleged Sergio Ramos inflicted injury and take the Pharaohs of Egypt at least to the Quarter-Finals in Russia.

Messi and CR7's fans will be tipping their choice to shine so as to have proof as to why one of them should be the World Best Player of the year 2018.

Neymar on the other hand will want to win the World Cup for Brazil - to compensate the Selacao fans after the Samba boys abysmal display at the last Mundial on home soil - that saw them being thumped in the quarter final by the German machines by seven goals to nil. This is also an opportunity for him to show the world that leaving Barcelona is a good decision and not being able to progress beyond the second round in UEFA Champions League was because his team Paris Saint-Germain faced a history of  chasing Real Madrid . For the new Brazilian golden boy that has recorded over 50 international goals for Brazil in less than 100 games, this tournament will be the biggest podium for him to announce his greatness to the world; he might never have such opportunity again.

4. Fan Violence

The fourth on our list is the violence. Attacking of opposition fans is not a new thing in football especially if you are the home fans and your team was beaten either mercilessly or pip. Nevertheless, it is against the rule of fair play as preached by FIFA. Due to the diplomatic tension between Britain and Russia, there is a cat and dog relationship between Russian fans and English fans. According to AS, Memories of the violent scenes of the Russian fans against the English in the last European Championships in France have not been forgotten, with street lynching in the streets of Marseille and incidents inside the stadium getting plenty of media attention. The same sports news medium also carried a report on how Russian fans are visiting Argentina to seek support to fight English fans that they tagged ‘hooligans’.

If FIFA in partnership with Russian Security agencies didn’t find a way to curb this from happening, there is a possibility of it taking the beautiful game of football out of the limelight and replacing it with gory scenes of dead or critically butchered fans. This is newsy to the media but badly for the world. I am sure the social media world don't want violence in Russia. Very Sure of that.

 5. Video Assistant Referee (VAR): The Fun Killer

The beautiful game of football is more memorable when you can talk about the controversial moments said a friend of mine. He referenced the “Hand of God” of Maradona, Frank Lampard disallowed goal against Germany, Geoff Hurst winner against Germany in 1966 final among other, as the moments that were controversial but alluring.  He aggregated that VAR is going to be a fun killer.

Like my friend, there are millions of football fans in the world that want to see VAR fail in the World Cup. They believed it disrupt the flow of the game and waste time therefore it flopping will make them easily agitate for removal. Twitter will surely be the tool for this war against VAR.

 

All the views expressed in this article are that of the writer and not of the organisation.

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Published in International Watch