Referee’s decision is final… well, except when the VAR disagrees

When exactly should a referee decide to consult the video assistant referee (VAR)? That is the big question. But I must say up front that if abused, the VAR can cause more harm than good to the game of football.

Following the drama when exactly should a referee decide to consult the video assistant referee (VAR)? That is the big question. But I must say up front that if abused, the VAR can cause more harm than good to the game of football.

In the final between Spanish giants Real Madrid and English heavyweights Liverpool last Saturday in France, the debate around the effectiveness of the fourth eye remains a talking point worldwide.

I call it the fourth eye because besides the most important eye, the referee, there are two assistants he consults with if uncertain and, of course, the fourth official in the form of a TV screen monitor that he should refer to when in doubt.

During the European final, Real’s top French striker Karim Benzema converted one of the few chances of the first half that Liverpool dominated, but the Merengues’ star forward was deemed offside when the ball was crossed to him on the edge of the box.

Imagine the outrage from Real and their fans had the referee given the goal and had to rescind his decision after consulting VAR? Fortunately, that was not the case. His disallowing of the goal was correctly confirmed by VAR.

However, there have been a number of instances when referees’ erroneous decisions had to be reversed and at times, confirmed as correct.

Back home, PSL champions Mamelodi Sundowns’ co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi has been outspoken about inconsistencies in the application of VAR in the CAF Champions League, more so during their first leg quarterfinal match against Angola’s Petro de Luanda in April.

A dispute arose when a “goal” led to Masandawana’s 1-0 loss to Petro while a late Neo Maema goal was disallowed by Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe after consulting the VAR.

Mngqithi cast aspersions on African referees who choose to ignore the VAR, even though an incident warrants consultation. Could it be it was just an excuse for the loss on the part of Mngqithi after his side was dumped out of the competition by Petro?

The Downs coach said the problem is that referees on the continent only encounter VAR during big continental matches and not on a weekly basis in their respective leagues.

Almost a year has passed, in May, to be exact, since Safa president Danny Jordaan went public declaring it was time his association and the PSL introduced VAR because the country is being left behind by North African countries.

PSL chair Irvin Khoza has said it is too expensive and the league cannot afford it.

One of the most embarrassing moments in a PSL match that desperately called for VAR was during the 2-all drawn between Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows in a league tie at FNB Stadium when referee Masixolo Bambiso’s indecision was striking for all to see.

The indecisive Bambiso initially gave a penalty to Swallows for a deliberate handball by Phathushedzo Nange.

Replays showed it was the correct decision but Bambiso wasted time on a lengthy and tedious consultation with his assistant.

The referee then pointed to the spot, again, thereafter red-carding Nange.

Fortunately, the correct decision was reached in the end.

Many in football worldwide believe the introduction of VAR by Fifa has done more harm than good to the mantra, “the referee’s decision is final”.

Once again, whether used or abused, we shall have to live with the VAR for the rest of our football lives.

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