I guess the million-dollar question that many football followers are asking is, will the video assistant referee (VAR) force cheaters on to the straight and narrow?
I’m not certain that it will.
I watched two English Premier League (EPL) games this past weekend and each one had a blatant, deliberate cheating incident.
Chelsea star Willian dived in the penalty area in an effort to get a penalty for his team. Thankfully, the referee wasn’t fooled and the player was cautioned for his trouble.
Next was Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Lucas Moura in their game against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium.
This game was watched by millions of people on television around the world and nearly 80 000 at the ground.
Moura clearly dived in an attempt to get a free kick for his team, but instead got a yellow card for his trouble.
These are but two of many such incidents that happen each week. It would appear that match officials are finally catching on to what has almost become an epidemic.
I remember screaming at refs on TV last year, imploring them to open their eyes to what was going on. Some refs, it appeared, were turning a blind eye to what was obvious to this writer.
How the match officials couldn’t see the pushing and shoving in the penalty area was beyond me. They were giving free kicks for innocuous tackles in the middle of the park, but when it came to giving penalty kicks for nothing short of grievous bodily harm, they were found sadly wanting.
The EPL is due to introduce VAR this season. It will be interesting to see how that pans out.
Video Assistant Referee system Picture: AP
How much will it be used? Will the players and coaches accept it?
Will it finally put an end to the despicable carrying on by certain members of the professional ranks who seem to think that winning at any cost is acceptable?
I was encouraged at the start of the season when I watched certain referees put their foot down and not allow players to claim they’d been fouled when it was quite clear they hadn’t. There are two schools of thought on what should be done in such circumstances.
The first is that the guilty party should be automatically cautioned for their misdemeanour.
The second is that, when a player does go down as if they’ve been hit by a wrecking ball without having been touched, they should be left prostrate on the ground.
I’m not sure which one of these I favour. Both can work. The fact that it’s been allowed to go on for so long is, I feel, an indictment on the referees and their assistants.
Football authorities have to share some of the blame for not backing up match officials when they take stern action against perpetrators.
I’ve long said that certain teams and their coaches have too much influence when it comes to the game.
Yes, I know the teams make up the leagues, but they should not be allowed to act with impunity.
There is a feeling that they have been influencing and even intimidating referees for far too long, and that has to stop.
For some time I have been calling for an independent refereeing body that is free from any interference by teams, coaches or soccer politicians.
Referees need to stand up and do what they are being paid to do, which is to apply the Fifa laws of the game across the board without fear or favour, and with total disregard for who is playing or the importance of the game.
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