In Africa, cheating is the order of the day, so we need that VAR

Wednesday July 4 2018

Referee Mark Geiger (centre) whistles a VAR replay decision during the Russia 2018 World Cup

Referee Mark Geiger (centre) whistles a VAR replay decision during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between South Korea and Germany at the Kazan Arena on June 27, 2018. These machines will replace human agency in deciding matters regarding goals, straight red cards and offsides, among other things. PHOTO | AFP 

JENERALI ULIMWENGU
By JENERALI ULIMWENGU
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As young (and supposedly hot) males, almost all of us fell in love with Tatiana Romanova, the stunningly beautiful Soviet agent that James Bond (played by Sean Connery) was on a mission to rescue from Istanbul in the movie From Russia with Love.

It was at a time when young minds were populated by a little too much erotica, and though it may sound strange now, all the boys then were jealous of James Bond for the easy way he seemed to have with women from the other side of the Iron Curtain and the strength and guile he used in vanquishing all manner of evil men he encountered while working for Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

It was the era of the Cold War, and at that age we did not have the requisite knowledge to tell that this was all Western propaganda we were being bought up on.

Time passed and I got to visit the Soviet Union and many of the republics under its sphere of influence, and sure enough, the girls were dazzling (though admittedly not a fraction as hot as Tatiana) and their best moments were in the summer, like when the Soviet Union hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics.

Russian girls were simply gorgeous, and in their spectacular mass displays they looked like they had been mass produced by the Ministry of Design on the orders of the Central Committee. That is, until they hit 40 and started becoming “babushkas.”

They are still lovely, the Russian girls, as we have been seeing via the optics of the Fifa World Cup, and now they are helping to adorn the most watched sporting event in the world.

But the Russian girls are not stealing all the limelight, as they certainly have serious competition from the rainbow colours of beauties that have converged on Russia, coming from countries as far apart as Brazil, Sweden, Panama, Senegal and Korea, affording us the most luxuriant parade of feminine beauty the universe has to offer.

Dilution of human agency

It is bound to be a memorable Fifa party for another reason also, and that is the dilution of human agency in the settling of controversies surrounding the football game.

Hitherto a central referee, assisted by linesmen, was thought to suffice in making decisions, and most times the central man was left to make the most important decisions.

Of course, this gave too much power to officials, who could be corrupted, and complaints were not unheard of. Even Geoff Hurst’s equalising goal for England against West Germany (to make it 2-2 and send the match into extra time, allowing England to win 4-2) in 1966 in London, has been disputed by many pundits.

Now Fifa has instituted the video assisted referee (VAR) system that monitors every move on the pitch and can be consulted by the central referee.

These machines will replace human agency in deciding matters regarding goals, straight red cards and offsides, among other things.

It is another case of human beings, sensibly, owning up to their fallibility, but it will take time for us to be able to say for sure that the technical innovation will improve our game.

One thing is certain, and that is that Africa needs the technology, like yesterday. In a continent where almost everyone in charge of anything anywhere will do everything to benefit illegally from it, cheating is the order of the day.

Referees do make false decisions, and this has led to violent incidents. We shall soon know how beneficial the VAR will be for the game and remember that it was introduced in Russia 2018.

But in that remembrance, Germany will opt to forget, after being bundled out by an unlikely South Korean side that played like lions to dethrone the 2014 champions with an emphatic 2-0 win.

Nothing that the Germans threw at the diminutive Koreans seemed to work as the latter produced extraordinary resilience and doggedness, as the so-called winner’s curse caught up with Joachim Lowe’s boys.

I am convinced that the Brazilian team, which advanced to the KO stage, will have employed that very cruel German word, schadenfreude, meaning the pleasure you feel when someone else suffers, in memory of that Germany 7-Brazil 1 match in 2014.

As for the African teams, let’s discuss that at the end of the tournament.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]

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