Since 2019, the video assistant referee (V.A.R.) was introduced into many major soccer leagues such as the English Premier League, U.E.F.A Champions League, La Liga Santander, and many more and was even implemented in several leagues in 2017 and 2018. Since V.A.R. has played its part in these leagues and supplied referees with a chance to correct their mistakes, I would expect that it would be used in major national tournaments as well. My expectations are the same with goal-line technology that was introduced into these major leagues in 2013 to confirm whether or not the ball did or did not cross the goal-line. While V.A.R. and goal-line technology were used in the 2018 F.I.F.A. World Cup and will be used in the 2022 F.I.F.A. World Cup, U.E.F.A. (Union of European Football Associations) determined that due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, V.A.R. and goal-line technology would not be used in the 2022 European World Cup Qualifiers. This makes no sense to me because I feel that the use of technology should be consistent throughout any tournament conducted by F.I.F.A. (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and U.E.F.A.
U.E.F.A. said in a statement, “In 2019, U.E.F.A had proposed to F.I.F.A. the implementation of V.A.R. in the current World Cup Qualifiers. The impact of the pandemic on operational and logistical capabilities led U.E.F.A to delay the implementation of V.A.R. in the Europa League group phase as well as to withdraw the proposal to implement V.A.R. in the 2022 European qualifiers.” I understand if F.I.F.A. and U.E.F.A. were to come to a consensus that VAR would not be used in the World Cup and the World Cup Qualifiers, but the fact that it has been decided that V.A.R. will be used in the World Cup means that unnecessary inconsistencies are being introduced into these major tournaments. If F.I.F.A. decides that V.A.R. will be used in the World Cup, then the same rules should be implemented in the qualifiers. When they decided to not use V.A.R. in the qualifiers, it showed that they clearly think of the World Cup as more important than the qualifiers. While the World Cup certainly draws much more attention than the qualifiers, entire countries can miss out on the biggest worldwide competition all because of ‘clear and obvious errors’—the one thing that V.A.R. was introduced into soccer for—or a goal that was incorrectly given or not given because of having no access to goal-line technology.
The most recent occurrence of this that has gained much attention was in Group A of the F.I.F.A. World Cup European Qualifiers in a match between the two group favorites to advance to the World Cup—Portugal and Serbia. A lot was riding on this result because it could’ve been a turning point in the competition with the result potentially giving one side a large lead over the other after just the second game of the tournament. In a back and forth game between the Portuguese and Serbians, the score was 2-2 entering the stoppage time of the game. Portuguese left-back Nuno Mendes lifted a last-minute prayer into the Serbian goal area for forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who appeared to have tapped home the game-winning shot into the back of an empty net. However, as Serbian defender Stefan Mitrovic desperately cleared the ball out of the net, referee Danny Makkelie felt that the ball had not crossed the line and that both teams should play on. Ronaldo desperately pleaded his case to the referee that the ball crossed the goal-line, but he only earned a yellow card in his efforts. Ronaldo was so furious that he ripped the captain’s armband off of his arm and walked off the field as time expired. After watching the clip over again after the game, Makkelie apologized to the Portuguese team for the miscall, confirming that this should have been the game-winner for Portugal. This decision from Makkelie had extreme consequences in Group A because instead of Portugal having 10 points and Serbia having six, the two nations now sit equal to each other at the top of the table with seven points. I do not think that this was the referee’s fault, as it was an extremely difficult call to make without being able to watch in slow-motion, but it is inexcusable from F.I.F.A. and U.E.F.A. that this call was made due to the referee’s lack of access to goal-line technology. Had this match taken place in the World Cup, the call would have been altered to a goal for Portugal, but due to F.I.F.A. and U.E.F.A’s inconsistency and lack of effort put into the World Cup Qualifiers, the incorrect call was made. I have no idea how the pandemic is related to the decision of having no VAR or goal-line technology in the World Cup Qualifiers because both of these were introduced to the game years ago. F.I.F.A. and U.E.F.A explained that VAR and goal-line technology was not installed in every European stadium that would be used in the World Cup Qualifiers, but with over a year to install VAR and over seven years to install goal-line technology into stadiums, it shows a lack of care about the World Cup Qualifiers. While some might argue that V.A.R. and goal-line technology take away the excitement from soccer due to the fear that a goal may be disallowed, it is only fair to the players that when they earn a goal, they are given it, and when they concede a goal, it is a legal concession.