How to prove that VAR is garbage with just one video (What really grinds my gears #17)

So here we go again. Actually, I was planning not to write much about VAR in modern football anymore. I think I’ve sufficiently stated how much I dislike this new feature and how much I think that it’s rather destroying football than actually adding something useful to it.

But not too long ago, VAR has been confirmed at the World Cup in Russia this summer. How exciting… As we’ve clearly seen an the Confed Cup – nothing less than the official trial in international football for the VAR – the technique has way too many problems to be used at the most important and biggest football tournament in the world.

Well, apparently FIFA has another opinion. And from my point of view I only have one explanation for this decision: FIFA officials have not watched a single game of football in Germany, Australia, Italy or Portugal this year.

Because in these leagues, among a few others, VAR is being used since the beginning of the seasons. And failures haven’t been rare. Many people that were longing for VAR to be introduced have since changed their minds and see VAR – as it is now – as harmful for their beloved sport.

Why? Because it may provide a little bit more fairness in the game, having goals disallowed because of players being offside by five centimetres, not visible for the linesman to see. But what’s the price we’re paying for that? Emotions! Having to wait after every second goal of your club if some guy in front of a plasma screen a few hundred kilometres away will allow it or not kills what makes football so special – the power of instantaneous emotions.

Don’t believe me? Have a look at this video from last weekend then.

It shows AC Milan player Patrick Cutrone after allegedly having scored a goal. However, he, all his teammates and every Milan fan couldn’t celebrate it instantly. Instead they had to wait for minutes while the goal was under review by VAR. After the goal is allowed, Cutrone tries to celebrate. Well, he’s the only one who really does. No collective ecstasy in the stadium, no relief after having scored an important goal, nothing.

This episode proves how much harm VAR does to football. For a rather unimportant league game this might be not so terrible after all. But imagine if Mario Götze’s World Cup winning goal from 2014 would have been reviewed like that. Do we really want this to happen?

How do you feel about VAR being used at the World Cup? Let’s discuss in the comment section!

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Darts player coughs on purpose to distract his opponent (WRGMG #16)

I hope you enjoyed the holidays with your loved ones and spent a great Christmas! To get you out of the peaceful and calm festive mood, I have a sports horror story to share with you. A story of the probably less sportsmanlike behavior that has been seen on live TV lately.

I want to tell you the story of Justin ‘The Force’ Pipe, a top 30 darts player from Taunton, England. He played his first round game in this year’s PDC Darts World Championship against Bernie Smith, a likeable qualifier from New Zealand. Smith fought hard and got to throw a match dart on the double 10 field. If he would have scored that one, the underdog would have advanced to the next round, whereas the World Championship would have been over for Pipe.

Not only would Bernie Smith have had the Chance to play against Phil Taylor, the greatest darts player of all time who’s going to end his career after this tournament but it would also have granted the New Zealander an additional 5500 Pounds in price money – money that players who aren’t in the top 50 of the world desperately need, as for them it’s not possible to entirely rely on their sport in terms of money.

But Smith missed the shot. And lost the match afterwards. The expected end of a little fairytale? Absolutely not. Because Smith was unfairly distracted just when releasing his dart. He was distracted by his opponent, Justin Pipe who went behind him and coughed out lout just in the very moment when Smith was releasing his dart. Coincidence? Definitely not.

Why am I so sure about that? Because Pipe actually took a good step forward and towards his opponent before coughing. Not only would a darts player, as darts is a high-concentration sport with players who despite their sometimes extravagant looks know how to behave like gentlemen, cough away from his opponent if he had to cough or even better just take a sip of water. Nope, a true darts player that has even the slightest bit of respect for his opponent and the sport in general, would simply never walk towards an opponent and distract him.

See for yourself:

What Pipe did was absolutely disgusting. Behavior like that should be banned from the world of sports. Still, Pipe was allowed to advance in the round of last 64 and got to play against the grandmaster Phil Taylor for one last time on a big stage. In front of the massive crowds of the Ally Pally. An unforgettable experience. One, that Bernie Smith would have deserved and not this cheater from Taunton, England.

Luckily, the crowds of the Ally Pally saw things similar. As you can see in the video below, Pipe got whistled and booed brutally in his game against Taylor. Taylor destroyed Pipe 4-0 in this game. What goes around, comes around, Justin Pipe.

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Now even managers dive in football – how far have we come? (WRGMG #15)

Hello everyone! First of all, sorry for not having been able to write any in-depth blog posts lately. I’ve had university exams and was also busy with work so the blog had to rest for a while. However, this doesn’t mean that I haven’t been enraged by the world of sports in this period. But I managed to maintain calm and not write my anger down.

Anyways, this week has been too much. So there will actually be two What Really Grinds My Gears this week. Both go into a similar direction: how sportsmanship has been trampled on in both football and darts. On live tv. Before the holidays. Too much for any sports-enthusiast to bare.

Let’s start with football. I know many people here in Switzerland who prefer hockey over football. And I really hat arguing with them, as I see things differently. But one of their main arguments has ridiculously been proven to be true this week. They keep saying that football players are huge pussies who can’t do anything but dive after the slightest touch.

Diving is part of the game. But: Some players surely do overexaggerate. Source: Twitter

Now, if that happens between players on the pitch that’s one thing. During the game you might want to secure a free kick from a promising position or you want to have that opponent sent off who has already been booked before. I can understand that to a certain extent. It’s the heat of the moment and the spirit of desperately wanting your team to win. Two aspects that make football one of the greatest sports on the globe, but it’s also these two factors that generate space for cheating and behavior that we don’t want to see in the beautiful game.

Source: Twitter

Last week, however, things have been taken too far. In the German cup, a coach has been caught diving trying to provoke a red card. I’m talking about Heiko Herrlich, the coach that took sleeping giant Bayer Leverkusen back to old strength in the Bundesliga. During the game against Borussia Mönchengladbach he produced the most ridiculous dive I have ever seen in my entire life. As a coach. As a role model. Heiko Herrlich just ruined his entire integrity and sympathy that he has build up with great managing skills this season with this one move.

I have nothing else to say but: Shame on you, Heiko.

After the ball went out and Gladbach player Denis Zakaria went to collect it, he slightly touched Herrlich with his hands. Neither was that a strong touch, nor did he intend any aggression whatsoever towards him. Still, Herrlich goes down like Zakaria stabbed him with a f*cking sword.

See for yourself:

Now I’m a big supporter of harsh rules towards diving players. Being able to ban them even after the game when video proves that they dived is one of the few really useful new rules that have been introduced to football. This time, this rule needs to be brought up against Herrlich as a manager.

At least, Herrlich apologized for his dive and takes full responsivbility. This proves, he can and should be forgiven. Still, if he won’t get banned for this ridiculous move many questions will have to be answered about the general state of modern day football. Maybe hockey is actually better after all.

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Mainstream media at its finest: Italy WON’T go to the World Cup, even if Peru should get expelled. Live with it. (WRGMG #14)

The other day, I finally went to get a haircut. Was about time as I started to risk looking like Marouane Fellaini with my curly hair slowly but truly. And quite frankly, I didn’t really want that. So I went to my local barber that I visit since I’m a kid, really nice guy. Why am I bothering you with this pointless tale?

Because in the barbershop it was one of the many times I’ve heard people talking about the possibility of Italy still heading to the football World Cup in Russia next summer. Since Peru could probably face suspension after all, there’d be a spot available. And football romantics would love to see Italy take that space.

Now, I’m a football romantic too, but I know that this is virtually impossible. And suggesting it might actually happen is either the worst kind of clickbait by mainstream media, who took up this topic around the globe and appealing to those who were disappointed that the squadra azzurri failed to qualify in their playoffs against Sweden, or just people jumping on the bandwagon.

As I didn’t want to end up bald, I’ve decided to shut my mouth and let my anger about this whole story – not the people at my barber’s in particular – out on my blog. 21st century style. But honestly, we will have to live without Italy going to the World Cup. No ifs, no maybes and no buts. It is how it is.

Source: Pixarbay

But why were people suggesting that Gigi Buffon and his teammates might actually still end up at the World Cup? The answer lies somewhere around the Macchu Picchu region and is best known for pan flute music and great landscapes: Peru. The country that sealed the last World Cup spot in the playoff game against New Zealand. The country that went viral for their fan’s passion ahead of this qualifier and the unusual support by shamans trying to give their team a special power. Apparently it worked, the South-Americans qualified.

But now, they might still not end up going to the World Cup. Because a new law is set to be released in the country that would put the national football association directly under governmental influence. An absolute No-Go for FIFA, as the mentioned newspapers state.

Well, firstly we have to doubt how principle-centered FIFA actually is. Excluding a country from the World Cup and probably having to redraw the groups as there are continental quotas for the World Cup groups and everything? Much of a hassle. But more importantly, we’d have to go back a few years. To 2010 to be precise. That was when a rather famous country called North Korea took part at the World Cup. And my educated guess would be that their football association isn’t entirely independent from the national government either. But well, that’s just an assumption that you probably can’t really use to exclude the possibility of Peru being expelled.

Anyways, even if this would be reason enough to exclude Peru from the tournament, there still wouldn’t be any chance for Italy to take their spot. Normally it would have to be given to New Zealand who got directly eliminated by Peru or to Chile who come from the CONMEBOL region as well and finished one place behind Peru and hence missed the playoffs.

But FIFA has no clear rules on who would be given that spot either. So it might still be Italy after all, right? Nope. Because there is one clear rule: There can’t be more than 13 European teams at the World Cup. And Peru isn’t European.

So, unless England would retire voluntarily as they will probably go straight back home after the group stage anyhow, Italy won’t get a World Cup spot. As much as we all wuld love to see the Italians at the World Cup, we’ll have to live with it, no matter what clickbait articles say the opposite.

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Useless Rules: Refs aren’t responsible for stoppage time scandals in Spain and Mexico (WRGMG #13)

Stoppage time is one of the aspects that annoys me the most about football. Either a team on the bottom of the second Dutch division that had no attempt on goal so far and is 1:0 down goes full Real Madrid and scores a screamer of an equalizer ruining your combo-bet or a referee that decides to feel generous and gives two minutes of stoppage time after a game full of substitutions, treatments and time-wasting, when your favorite team is 0:1 down. You know what I mean. Somehow I feel that what happens after the 90th minute is a freaking curse for most football fans.

Additionally, as a football enthusiast from Basel, Switzerland, I’ve always had my personal trouble with stoppage time. Back in 2006 our rivals from Zurich took the championship from us due to a goal in the 93rd minute – in the last game of the season. A defining moment.

But hey, after all, that’s football. Knowing that a game can change entirely until the final whistle is blown makes it thrilling. So conceding goals in stoppage time is one thing, you could always be on the other side too and see your team score. Referees not having the balls to punish teams for time-wasting is another. A thing, that I feel needs to be changed in today’s football. What I’d wish for would be no fear of giving 8 or 9 minutes when a team has had 6 medical treatments during the second half.

But what I want to write about in this week’s What Really Grinds My Gears is even worse than this matter for the spirit of each fan in the stands or in front of the tv. In the last few days I’ve heard of two situations, where the referees took it to another level. I thought it was a joke or a huge misunderstanding at first. But apparently, it wasn’t.

In the Liga MX, the 1st Mexican tier, and in the Segunda B, the 3rd division in Spain, referees disallowed goals in stoppage time, because they blew the whistle just before the ball was shot on target. But I think this is best described in pictures. So see for yourself:

Mexico: Toluca misses a penalty and scores the equalizer from the follow-up. But in the meantime the referee had ended the game already.

At first, this looks like a huge joke. The referee ends the game straight away, after the penalty was taken and ignores the fact that there’s still explicit danger of a goal being scored by the follow-up. “Shouldn’t a referee know the football rules?” Well actually, he does. In the official FIFA rules it says that after a penalty was given in stoppage time it HAS to be taken, no matter if the added time would already be over and that the game cannot be ended UNTIL the shot has had its “effect”.

What that means: When he was sent towards the goal and either went in, missed the target or got deflected by post, crossbar or keeper WITHOUT the possibility of a goal without touching any other players than the keeper again, the game HAS to be ended straight away. So if the ball would have bounced back from the ground or the keeper into the goal, it would have had to count. But in our case a Toluca player took the rebound and scored. So we have to say: Having added 3 minutes of stoppage time and the penalty being taken in the 100th minute, the referee did do the right call. Well done, dear ref. But also: Dear FIFA, wtf is that rule?!

Spain: Ponferradina scores after a long pass, that seems to have been deflected by a defender at first. The referee blew the final whistle before the shot had been taken.

Also here, the referee’s car might not have survived the night, as players and fans alike must have got pretty upset with the decision that at first seems like a scandal. But again: According to the FIFA rules he didn’t have to let this attack be completed before ending the game, under the premise that this scene has occurred after the added time he indicated would have been over (doesn’t become clear with the video source we have, as you can see). Only for penalties, the game needs to be extended.

But again, this rule doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense from a practical point of view. I guess, the whistle has been blown, because the referee thought that the defender would deflect the ball more clearly with his header, which he didn’t. An attack like that needs to be conducted. With ending the game before the shot (and the goal), the referee didn’t just not end the game from a neutral position (which would be what you’d expect from an impartial ref) but he influenced the entire outcome with disallowing the winning goal.

So today we’ve learned again that added time sucks. And that modern day referees can only lose. Like we saw with the Mexican example, referees need to be protected more with reasonable rules by FIFA. Every fan would at first curse the ref, for ruining the game when in fact he was just obedient to a useless rule. A bit of common sense wouldn’t hurt here at all, just as it wouldn’t have for the Spanish ref that, in my opinion, simply has misinterpreted a rule. Hence: It’s not justified to entirely blame the ref in both cases, especially not in the Mexican one.

What should have become evident is that the rules concerning injury time are outdated and to some extent even simply stupid. And that’s what I think needs to change in order to avoid a lot of trouble in the game. Gosh, how I hate stoppage time.

But as I’ve said before: All of this is a crucial part of football. Let’s close this article with the words of Carlos Terrazas, the coach of Ponferradina:

The referee has taken this decision and we have to respect it. We all make mistakes, players, managers, and also referees. It’s part of football and we have to respect it, because without referees we couldn’t play.

What really grinds my gears #12 – Beating up your own players: WTF is wrong with Legia Warsaw’s fans?

In this format I will, once per week, polemically write about things that disturb me in the world of sports. Things that, in my opinion, either are hilariously disgusting or just proper embarrassing. You decide.

Earlier this month, I’ve read some reports that actually shocked me. I’ve only found the time to get back to it now, yet even after a few weeks it still leaves me speechless. What I’m talking about happened in Poland and left me questioning the relation between football teams and their fans in general. Because what happened on a Polish car park in early October should probably go down as one of the most scandalous events in the 2017 football year.

After a rather bad performance ad a well-deserved 3:0-loss to Lech Poznan, players of the Polish team Legia Warsaw, that we know from recent Champions League campaigns, were forced by a group of reportedly around 50 – 70 hooligans, to leave their team bus. After they obeyed and were thinking of one of these fan-confrontations that have become some sort of a thing, where players have to stand in front of their supporters and give them a chance to express their discontent, things turned out differently.

Source: Twitter.

Some players and staff  members were physically attacked and got their faces slapped by their own supporters. With open hands, so that there wouldn’t be any marks left on the player’s faces and necks. 8 minutes of horror for the players. After the incident, the fans left with a threat: “Either you’ll play better from now on we’ll have to visit you again”.

It’s not the first time that Legia Warsaw’s fans made it to the headlines. In the game against Real Madrid during Legia’s last CL-campaign, their ultras rioted in the Bernabeu stadium and later on the streets of Madrid. Back in 2011 a fan punched former club captain Jakub Rzezniczak in the face. Yet, punishments hardly seem to be an option in Poland.

There’s not really much hope that this will have been the last incident of this kind. And that’s what I find incredibly sad.

I mean, of course you can be bitterly disguised by the way your team plays, as a supporter. You pay a lot of money for tickets, travel through the country or even across the continent to see them play – and eventually lose. You know that they earn more in a month than you earn in a year. You might feel betrayed. And that definitely gives you the right to express your discontent, no question about that. And that you’d want to address this directly to your players is understandable as well.

But is it not the task of a true supporter to stand behind his team even in times of despair? Are there no other measures that could be taken rather than beating up the players you’re supposed to support from the stands? What must have happened that one feels it’s right to beat them up in a shady car park just because they’ve underperformed for a few weeks?

The dedication of Warsaw’s fans can also be positive. Source: Twitter.

I understand the emotions involved in being a football fan and I truly respect the Polish fans for their incomparable passion and dedication to the beautiful game. But as sorry as I am, what’s happened now is just a step too far for me.

But hey, the questionable incident might have had an effect at least. Since that night, Legia has won two consecutive games. Let’s hope, it’s not because of that.

What really grinds my gears #11 – A ghost goal lead Panama to the World Cup

In this format I will, once per week, polemically write about things that disturb me in the world of sports. Things that, in my opinion, either are hilariously disgusting or just proper embarrassing. You decide.

First of all: I find it hilariously funny that the US didn’t qualify for Russia 2018 – as sorry as I am for the upcoming football scene in the country and hence the fans wanting to see their idols play in the spotlight of a World Cup. But apparently that’s what you get for calling it soccer.

Nevertheless, the US will be missed at the World Cup. Just as much as Chile or the Netherlands who failed to qualify as well. It will be a lack of entertainment and a lack of quality – and probably a lasting negative effect on the development of American football – excuse me, soccer. And this is terrible, because football was slowly but truly getting somewhat of a standing in the States. The lack of media attention due to the missed World Cup surely won’t be of any benefit to this.

But things get worse for American soccer fans. Not only did their team fail to qualify while teams like Honduras and Panama overtook them in the qualifying campaign. But until the last game away against Trinidad and Tobago, at this time last of the CONEMBOL group with 3 points out of 9 games and, obviously, no chances to qualify anymore, the US-players had their World Cup fate in their own feet. Even a draw would have done – against an island with slightly over a million inhabitants that shouldn’t have been a daunting task. Apparently it was.

The US-players were devastated after the game against Trinidad and Tobago. Source: Twitter.

But what should annoy the Americans much more than their own embarrassing failure on the Caribbean island is the fact that their direct competitor, Panama, qualified thanks to a 2:1-win over Costa Rica. Costa Rica? That’s right. The team that made the World Cup quarterfinals in 2014. They shouldn’t really lose to a team like Panama either. But they were through since the second last game. I’m not saying that they didn’t care – but maybe they still felt some sort of exhaustion after the celebrations. Who could blame them?

Yet, it gets even better. Costa Rica might not even would have lost that decisive game in Panama, if it wouldn’t have been for Panamas equalizer in the 55th minute of the game. And that goal, despite the great story of Panamas qualification, the tears of joy spilled by the fans and the great story of their qualification campaign, really grinded my gears. Why? Because not in 200 years, that was actually a goal.

When a corner from the right side came into the box, the ball got headed towards the goal, where it was blocked between an attacker, a defender and the post. From there it went out of play. Yet, it never came close to cross the line. Still somehow  referee Walter Lopes decided that this was a goal.

But actually, this scene is too weird to be described, so see for yourself:

Despite the protests by the Costa Rican players, the ghost goal counted and from there on Panamas miracle could be written.

As you might remember from one of my earliest blogposts, I’m – let’s express it diplomatically – not the greatest fan of video assistant referees (VAR). This time they could have been at least useful. But actually, goal line technology (that is really support) and a less terrible ref would have done too here.

But hey, Costa Rica und especially the US: You’re not alone. Hilarious referee mistakes happen quite frequently. Check out this disallowed penalty from the Uefa Youth League for example:

Still not convinced? Ghost goals happen in the allegedly best league of the world as well:

Anyway. As much as this goal is undeserved, it can’t be changed anymore. Mistakes are human and they happen – that’s the nature of the game. So let’s just hope that Panama makes something out of this rather lucky World Cup ticket and that country and people will spread more of the amazing celebratory emotions they expressed after the historic qualification. At least, they don’t call it soccer there.

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