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Celtic, Arsenal and Tottenham VAR farce: Is football becoming a computer game?

Football’s love affair with technology is turning sour after the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system sparked another week of heated debate among managers, players and fans. 

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers criticised VAR after a controversial decision marred his team’s Champions League defeat to Atletico Madrid yesterday.

Daizen Maeda received a red card following a VAR intervention. The Japanese attacker had his yellow card upgraded to red after a VAR review at the Estadio Metropolitano. 

Rodgers felt the yellow was the right call, claiming the red was a harsh decision based on a flawed understanding of the challenge. 

Celtic were already down and now had the numerical disadvantage. Los Colchoneros thrashed them mercilessly. Rodgers compared VAR’s influence to a computer game. 

“I think the red card is a big turning point,” Rodgers said. “We started well, started with confidence, and got into some really good areas.

“We then get a man sent off early, which was a huge disappointment because I didn’t feel it was a red card.

“The ref saw it in-game time and didn’t deem it worthy of anything so serious, but it just feels like a computer game now, football.

“So many visits to the screen, so many influences in the game.”

Rodgers made a compelling argument by pointing out that VAR, with its frequent screen checks and still images, may not always provide a fair representation of the incident. 

This sentiment resonates with football purists who long for the human element in refereeing.

Rodgers’s sentiments echo Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou’s view.

The Australian claimed VAR is eroding match officials’ authority following his side’s game against Chelsea that saw multiple checks and overturned decisions.

This controversial technology has divided opinions and threatens to disrupt the essence of the beautiful game.

Postecoglou emphasised the need to respect the referee’s decision. He warned that an over-reliance on VAR could lead to a situation where referees lose their authority, with control shifting to faceless officials miles away from the pitch. 

The prolonged pauses and frequent interruptions in the game only diminish the fans’ excitement.

The controversies surrounding VAR are not unique to Celtic and Tottenham. 

Mikel Arteta’s explosive reaction after Arsenal’s loss to Newcastle United, where a contentious goal stood, exposed the frustration of managers, players and fans alike. 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has also been very expressive of his gripes with VAR, especially after their controversial loss to Spurs muddled by VAR issues.

Football is a sport where passion, unpredictability and human error have always been part of the charm, but it seems to be losing its essence with VAR’s ever-increasing influence.

The intention behind VAR was to reduce errors, but its implementation is breeding frustration, confusion, and resentment. 

Football must balance leveraging technology for accurate decisions and preserving the emotional and unpredictable nature of the sport. 

The challenge for the authorities is to ensure that VAR enhances, rather than diminishes, the beautiful game. 

If the issues are not addressed, we may find ourselves living in a world where football is nothing more than a computer game, and the thrill of the live, human experience fades into the distant past.

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