Soccer 360 - - Inside -

Football isn’t fair. It never has been and in a way it never will be. A team can dom­i­nate a match for 89 min­utes and still lose. We’ve seen it hap­pen so many times, in­clud­ing in Cup Fi­nals. Ev­ery­one is clam­our­ing to find new ways to make the game fair, to cre­ate an even play­ing field where ev­ery­one is guar­an­teed an even chance of suc­cess, but that is im­pos­si­ble. More than that, it ought to be im­pos­si­ble.

If ev­ery­one started on the same level, there’d be no fairy-tales. There’d be no Le­ices­ter City win­ning the Pre­mier League. The tragic death of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a he­li­copter crash just out­side the sta­dium where he cel­e­brated that as­ton­ish­ing sport­ing achievement just over two years ago is fur­ther proof that life, and sport, just isn’t fair. It is un­pre­dictable, in good ways and bad. We sim­ply have to rel­ish ev­ery mo­ment and ac­cept just how lit­tle con­trol we have over any of it.

Noth­ing gives you stronger emo­tions than sport. Noth­ing. See­ing your team beat the odds, hav­ing gone years with so lit­tle to cel­e­brate and then win­ning when com­pletely un­ex­pected: you can’t beat that sen­sa­tion. There are Manch­ester United fans whose dy­ing thoughts as their lives flash be­fore their eyes will in­clude the come­back to win the Cham­pi­ons League Fi­nal against Bay­ern Munich.

Fi­nan­cial Fair Play is a sham, but then we al­ways knew that. There is far too much money in the sport to bal­ance that out and ac­coun­tants far too skilled to let gen­uine rules be im­posed any­way. Again, though, com­plete equal­ity would ruin the sport.


Some clubs ex­ist by de­vel­op­ing young tal­ents and then sell­ing them on at vastly in­flated prices. This is a sys­tem ev­ery­one ben­e­fits from and that’s how it should be. What UEFA and the sport ab­so­lutely must avoid is the cre­ation of the so-called Su­per League. Leaked doc­u­ments show plans to in­vite big clubs – or at least ones who were big – to re­main in this top flight with no chance of rel­e­ga­tion for a decade.

There is no suc­cess without the dan­ger of po­ten­tial fail­ure. Football is not a sport that lends it­self to the sta­tus of an ex­hi­bi­tion match, be­cause you can’t make a game en­ter­tain­ing without there be­ing any­thing at stake. It gen­er­ates emo­tions be­cause it feels im­por­tant to the fans and the play­ers. There is one area where fair­ness can be pro­vided, or at the very least ap­proached, and that is with the in­tro­duc­tion of VAR. The Video As­sis­tant Ref­eree sys­tem has crept its way into the sport in dribs and drabs, mak­ing those left be­hind look pos­i­tively an­tique in com­par­i­son. Soon we’ll view those days be­fore VAR with the same be­fud­dled dis­be­lief that there was a world be­fore the In­ter­net and mo­bile phones. Some of us are feel­ing that way al­ready, see­ing Manch­ester United se­cure pas­sage to the Cham­pi­ons League Round of 16 thanks to a goal with an ev­i­dent Marouane Fel­laini hand­ball of­fence. UEFA have lis­tened, learned and agreed to start us­ing the tech­nol­ogy from the knock­outs this sea­son, although the Europa League re­mains out in the cold, like the only per­son you know without an iPhone.

Yet VAR is no guar­an­tee of fair­ness at all. Yes, it is ideal for ob­jec­tive sit­u­a­tions like off­side and whether an in­ci­dent was in­side or out­side the box, but when it comes to fouls in the penalty area, it re­mains what it al­ways was: a hu­man be­ing mak­ing a sub­jec­tive de­ci­sion. In case any­one wanted con­fir­ma­tion of just how brit­tle the sense of jus­tice is around this tech­nol­ogy, Piero Cec­ca­rini stepped up with the ul­ti­mate ex­am­ple.

Ques­tions were asked in the Ital­ian Par­lia­ment af­ter the coming to­gether be­tween Ju­ven­tus de­fender Mark Iu­liano and In­ter striker Ron­aldo in that in­fa­mous 1998 Serie A match. Ner­az­zurri Coach Gigi Si­moni said ‘his­tory would have changed’ if VAR had been in place at the time. Cec­ca­rini de­cided to prove him wrong by as­sur­ing even hav­ing seen the in­ci­dent again on a slow-mo­tion re­play, and still 20 years later, he would not have awarded a penalty, in­sist­ing Ron­aldo ran into Iu­liano. When it comes to sport, jus­tice is in the eye of the be­holder.

‘UEFA must avoid the cre­ation of the socalled Su­per League’The in­tro­duc­tion of VAR is by no means aguar­an­tee of jus­tice

The fact it shouldn’t have hap­pened is what made Le­ices­ter City such a fairy-tale

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