It’s not often the head honchos of domestic football come in for praise in this column, but credit where credit is due, they’ve gotten at least one big decision right in recent years.
The Việt Nam Professional Football Joint Stock Company (VPF) has many faults that I’ve banged on about , but their decision (or perhaps indecision) about the dreaded video assistant referee (VAR) has been spot on.
At the start of 2019, the VPF announced to a fair bit of fanfare that VAR was coming to the V.League 1 , or at least to the handful of stadiums with the facilities to use the technology.
There was even talk of a mobile VAR van parked up outside grounds, though one would hope for the sake of the poor officials it would have been parked somewhere discrete.
VAR still hasn’t made its way to Việt Nam despite that announcement and after another weekend of English Premier League football plagued by those three dreaded letters, I for one am breathing a sigh of relief.
On Saturday night a friend back home sent me a video clip of a VAR decision that had gone against his beloved Liverpool and lamented that: “This beautiful game of ours has died.”
The same thing happened to Manchester United on Sunday and caused a social media furore as one would expect, but what worries me the most is something else my friend said.
He said he felt “apathetic” toward all things VAR and after a couple of years of these same controversies, again and again, analysing and debating whether or not a forward’s nose is a millimetre offside, I can understand why, but for anyone who wants to see the V.League 1 thrive, apathy is something that has to be avoided.
It’s no exaggeration to say VAR has taken some of the passion and life out of football at the highest level and if we’re to avoid some of the same problems in the V.League 1, VAR needs to stay out of Việt Nam.
The argument in favour of the tech over here has always been the poor standard of refereeing, but as we’re seeing in the UK and across Europe, VAR doesn’t take human error or judgement out of officiating, if anything it magnifies its importance.
The best referees are those you don’t notice, those who stay out of the way and let the game go on around them. Conversely, the worst are those who have managed to convince themselves they are part of the entertainment and there are a few of them in every league on the planet.
VAR gives the handful of officials with delusions of grandeur yet another stage upon which to strut their stuff and I personally dread the day a match I’m watching in Hàng Đẫy Stadium is held up while the man in the middle takes his time judging the length of Nguyễn Văn Quyết’s arm hairs.
Now, I’m no Luddite and recognise that there must be some good that can come out of the sane use of VAR, but there’s no need for Vietnamese football to go through all these teething pains leagues elsewhere are facing.
The VPF should watch and learn, and once the technology and procedures for its use are improved massively, maybe then it’s time for VAR in Việt Nam. VNS