VAR, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin.
That certainly appeared to be the view of Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, who offered an expletive-laden critique of the Video Assistant Referee system after his side crashed out of the Champions League Wednesday.
Neymar took issue with referee Damir Skomina’s decision to award Manchester United a stoppage-time penalty after Diego Dalot’s shot struck Presnel Kimpembe and sailed over the crossbar.
It was only after consulting the VAR screen pitchside that Skomina changed his mind, awarding the penalty that Marcus Rashford scored to send United through to the quarterfinals. The Slovenian referee adjudged the ball had struck Kimpembe’s arm, which was away from his body.
Almost immediately, pundits, former players and referees began to debate whether it was the correct decision, with little consensus to be found.
Former English Premier League referee Peter Walton insisted the awarding of a penalty was the correct decision.
“We called it straight away – the way Kimpembe has gone up there he’s left his arm out, he’s turned his back and he’s taken no responsibility for the way the ball has struck him,” Walton told BT Sport.
“It’s a huge decision and that’s exactly why VAR has been brought in. As the law is written at the moment, that’s handball.”
Walton’s opinion was challenged by former England and Manchester United footballer Owen Hargreaves, who said: “Every football person will say it’s not a penalty. It’s hard for players – what do you do in that situation? Where do you go with your arms?”
Other former referees such as Mark Halsey and Keith Hackett also said they disagreed with the decision in posts on Twitter.
VAR has caused plenty of controversy during its debut season in the Champions League. But those who objected on the criteria that it would deprive the game of drama appear to have found their fears misplaced – it’s just t a very different kind of drama.
“I think that with VAR, there is always emotion,” UEFA’s head of refereeing Roberto Rosetti and the man responsible for overseeing the use of VAR in the Champions League told CNN.
“Maybe in some situations, there is a double emotion. VAR cannot kill football. It cannot kill emotions.”