VAR controversy rages on with Son at the center

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VAR controversy rages on with Son at the center

Referee Chris Kavanagh checks the video assistant referee (VAR) system for a goal decision during the English Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in London on April 11. [EPA/YONHAP]

Referee Chris Kavanagh checks the video assistant referee (VAR) system for a goal decision during the English Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in London on April 11. [EPA/YONHAP]

 
Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min is at the center of the ongoing controversy over the role of the video assistant referee (VAR) in the English Premier League after a Manchester United goal was controversially overturned because of a foul on the Korean striker on Sunday.
 
In the 33rd minute of the game between Spurs and United, Edinson Cavani scored what appeared to be the opener for Manchester, slotting the ball past Hugo Lloris to find the back of the net. The goal was initially allowed, but then canceled after the referee checked VAR.
 
The reason the goal was canceled was a foul on Son 10 seconds earlier in the build up to the goal. Manchester's Scott McTominay's hand made contact with Son's face and the Korean forward went down, staying down until after the goal was scored. The contact was ruled a foul and the goal disallowed.
 
Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane and teammates remonstrate with referee Chris Kavanagh as Son Heung-min reacts after a foul in the 33rd minute in a game against Manchester United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Sunday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane and teammates remonstrate with referee Chris Kavanagh as Son Heung-min reacts after a foul in the 33rd minute in a game against Manchester United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Sunday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

 
At the heart of the dispute is the questionable foul on Son, believed by many to be a dive, and the fact that the foul came four touches before the goal and involved completely different players. 
 
More fundamentally, the issue is the role that VAR plays in football games today. Whether Son was fouled or dived is immaterial — it was the VAR and referee that made the decision to disallow the goal.
 
"Scrap VAR... an absolute shambles!" Rio Ferdinand, English football pundit and former United player, tweeted after the game.  
 
The Premier League introduced VAR in the 2019/20 season after all clubs voted in favor of its inclusion. The VAR system involves two officials, one senior official that makes judgements on reviews and a second official that watches the live feed of the game. 
 
The system is on at all times, and does not operate on request like the KBO's VAR system. It is purely advisory, and can only alert the referee of a possible wrong decision, leaving the final choice with the referee.
 
VAR can only be used to review a goal, a penalty, a red card and any issues of mistaken identity. The system cannot be used for other issues that arise during play such as fouls, yellow cards or offside rulings. In the case of the foul on Son, the decision was made because it directly impacted the goal that followed.
 
"It’s extraordinary how ludicrous VAR has become," former Spurs star Gary Lineker said. "Not only with their many errors but that it sucks the life out of the game. The joy of celebrating, which is what makes football so special, has been completely diluted."
 
But not everybody is critical of VAR when it comes to the foul on Son.
 
"Really quite surprised at the reaction to McTominay/Son decision," tweeted Sky Sports News editor Lyall Thomas. "It was a clear and careless strike in the face to an opponent which, under the law, is a free-kick. This is classed as a 'serious missed incident' in the build-up to a goal and therefore VAR has to step in."
 
Dermot Gallagher of Sky Sports News shared the same opinion on air, saying it was "inevitable [a] foul would be given," and describing the play as "careless" but "not reckless" enough for a booking.
 
BY JIM BULLEY   [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr] 
 
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