The VAR system feels the impact of the Madrid 'juggernaut'
Spanish referees have an expression that has been passed down to the current generation of match officials: "You're not a fully fledged ref. until you've been hit by the Real Madrid juggernaut". Basically this translates literally as, one is not a bona-fide referee until you're at the centre of a scandal involving a key decision, either for or against the Bernabeu club. Once this happens and the media magnifying glass is activated, the fall-out from the press, television, radio etc. can be disproportionate. Match officials come through these experiences wiser and stronger but the media spotlight has been known to negatively affect certain match officials. Now the VAR system has felt the impact of this this Real Madrid 'juggernaut' after the Real Sociedad goalkeeper apparently upended Vinicius in the box in a passage of play that was not deemed a spot kick by referee Juan Munera or his VAR team.
In my opinion it was a clear penalty and I appreciate that the action and infringement wasn't spotted by the match official but what about those in the VAR booth? Surely they would have picked up that this was a foul by Rulli on the Madrid player and a spot kick the correct outcome. Head VAR official on the night Mario Melero Lopez has a tendency though to only use the system involving blatant decisions and would have apparently deemed this to have been not so clear cut? Thierry Henry handling the ball for France against Ireland in a key World Cup play-off or Lampard's shot that crossed the line for England against Germany in the South Africa World Cup...The foul on Vinicius is (was) a penalty and a few seasons ago, this would have led to hours of media debate that we all assumed would be done away with after the introduction of VAR.
It would appear that there is a lack of clarity regarding the criteria of the system. I've seen the system called into action is passages of play that seem incidental and also seen it not pick up on major incidents such as the penalty decision for Athletic against Getafe or the incident at the Bernabeu involving Rulli and Vinicius. Maybe we need a stand-alone VAR team as has been put forward by retired match official and now media pundit Iturralde? Maybe head of the referring commission Velasco Carballo needs to propose that the system is called upon with greater frequency? At the end of the day, Madrid fans need to appreciate that their club is fifth in LaLiga not because of this decision but the club's own inability to resolve squad issues and despite it's teething problems, the VAR system has currently amended 54 key decisions this season alone in the league. I was initially sceptical when the system was introduced and admit that it's not perfect and has its flaws but do acknowledge that it has improved many aspects of the game. I also genuinely hope that the VAR system is robust enough to make it through the impact of the Madrid juggernaut.
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