The adoption of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) is probably the most contentious alteration to the governance of football in a generation. Naturally, judgement about such things is mostly subjective. If a decision from the eye in the sky goes your way, it’s a great thing, be on the wrong side of a dubious call and the stock-in-trade response is to thrash it.
Look through a different lense, it does reduce the chances of an individual or team being wronged by subpar officialdom. Indeed, you wonder were it applied differently, how many outcomes would be altered?
I’m reminded of a Frank Lampard ‘goal’ – possibly against Germany – that was chalked off even though it was as clearly a legitimate goal as the Pope is a Catholic. Essentially, it was soccer’s lightbulb moment. Just as the Sean Cavanagh tackle on Conor McManus some years back was the touch paper that needed lighting to bring about the instigation of the Black Card rule in Gaelic football. By the way, anyone in the same position would’ve done the same thing and if they said they wouldn’t they would either be lying or you’d be bitterly disappointed and questioning their commitment to the cause.
Sometimes, the key ingredient to winning is knowing how to do so. Not in the sense of knowing the rudiments of whatever pursuit one happens to be engaged in. An awareness of when to stray beyond the line of acceptability and, much more importantly, having the nous to do so without getting caught.
It’s the corner forward pulling the defenders hand so that they will both go down, the prop forward who engages a fraction early and still makes it look like their opposite number has collapsed the scrum or the darts player who, purely coincidentally, develops a chesty cough when their opponent is at the oche ready to fire.
More pointedly, the one which came to mind when what you are reading was still in the production unit upstairs, the jockey that goes for the gap that’s not in fact there. Yes it could be termed race riding but pushing the boundaries thereof to their limit. Yet it was exactly what came to mind observing the crash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday last.
Not all that long ago, it was admitted in this space that views in this seat regarding Formula One had altered significantly for having watched an enthralling documentary series on Netflix all about same. Yes, the technology in the cars and available to teams does certainly contribute considerably to the intricacies of the action. However, there’s no technology sophisticated enough to legislate for human error.
At the previous round of the F1 World Championship in Holland, Hamilton’s pit crew quite obviously kitted the six-time champion out with the wrong tyres. Thus gifting a victory for his main title rival (Verstappen) on home soil. Yesterday, mind you, each was as culpable as the other in their dual demise after 17 laps at Monza.
Here is where the horse racing comparison raised its head. To my mind, Verstappen quite simply went for a gap that wasn’t there. There are those considerably better versed in matters of the chequered flag than I who would contend Hamilton should have let his opponent through. If thoose are the laws well and good, but at the same time, if that is the law, then the law’s an ass!
Surely each competitor having the opportunity and wherewithal to fight their own corner is a major part of the attraction and skillset involved in racing – no matter whether it involves engines or animals. Taking that out of the equation surely devalues the product.
Anyway, with the two protagonists in the title race sidelined, naturally it opened the door for somebody to take advantage. In this case, it happened to be Daniel Ricciardo and his McLaren team as not only did the Australian win the race it ended up being 1-2 for the team.
Victory was due reward for Ricciardo after he has had the rough end of the stick several times in recent years. Mind you, the duelling pair are unlikely to be far from the headlines next time out either.