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A Real Madrid Castilla goal disallowed with no 'vague room' to turn to

It’s common to talk ill of your in-laws, but I’m going to do the opposite. My brother-in-law, a long-time football fan, keeps me entertained with interesting messages during games, and I’m very pleased that he does. Recently, he came up with the linguistic witticism ‘vague room’, which I plan to make good use of. It refers, of course, to the VAR room, where two men decked out in referee’s kit, aided by technology, pull the invisible strings that determine how this system is supposed to work. And that’s something that changes every day. We no longer have any idea when they’re supposed to give the match referee a hand (or, at times, place it around their throat). Just as we don’t know what’s a handball or not anymore. On the other hand, we now know all too well whether a player is a hair’s breadth offside or not.

The ‘vague room’. I like it. That said, it was also my brother-in-law who made me aware of the unbelievable decision to disallow a goal scored by Castilla, Real Madrid’s ‘B’ team, the other day. I made sure to see it, and I recommend taking a look. If we rule out corruption - which we should - the only explanation is that there was a major lapse in concentration. The guilty party was the assistant referee, Ismael Fernández, who raised his flag when he shouldn’t have, because Miguel Gutiérrez was a good couple of yards onside when his team-mate struck the ball. Privately, it has been explained that he confused Gutiérrez with the centre-forward - although he was also on, if not by quite so much. Fernández’s decision to signal offside dragged the referee, Albert Ávalos, into the officiating error of the season.

It’s the kind of goal that would have been reinstated in even the vaguest of ‘vague rooms’. It’s by no means a moment that changes the course of a season - both Castilla and their opponents, Balona, sit in mid-table obscurity - but given it involved a Madrid team, one coached by none other than Raúl, it has gained attention. And it really is frightening. If, with VAR, we see the things we see in the top two tiers, what must be going on lower down the pyramid? Former FIFA referee Eduardo Iturralde tells me he feels the money spent on VAR would be put to better use on improving referees’ training. As is pretty much always the case, I’m minded to agree with him. Let’s focus a bit less on technology and ‘vague rooms’, and a bit more on instructing our officials.