VAR was back in the headlines again on Saturday when it led to the decision to send off West Ham United midfielder Tomas Soucek for what was clearly an accidental elbow.
In the 97th minute of West Ham’s 0-0 draw with Fulham, Soucek undoubtedly made contact with Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic, but what initially looked like a violent act was clearly shown on replays to be nothing more than a tall man having elbows. VAR could save the day.
Well, it didn’t.
Referee Mike Dean was urged to head to the monitors to watch this bloodcurdlingly vicious event unfold, and after several minutes and a bazillion replays, he made the decision to send Soucek off for violent conduct.
The decision has done nothing but bring VAR’s use to the game into the spotlight even more than it was already. Soucek has been widely supported by most, and even the Czech ambassador to the UK felt it necessary to join in.
“Referee Mike Dean sent off Tomas Soucek in the minute 97 in the derby with Fulham,” Libor Secka wrote on Twitter. “I am far from judging this decision.
“I would like to stress that Tomas is & all the time has been a great sporting gentleman. The football world is on his side.”
It’s not only VAR which has attracted criticism for this. The basic standard of refereeing in England is also up for debate, with most confused at how two professionals, Dean and Lee Mason, could genuinely believe Soucek’s actions warranted a red card.
Gary Lineker and Jamie Carragher were two of several former players who hopped online to voice their disgust, while Soucek also received support from Czech tennis player Tomas Berdych, who could not understand the decision.
“This is not red card for Tomas Soucek in a million years!!!” Berdych wrote. “Why do you have VAR Premier League??”
Can we please just have one week in which VAR and referees don’t steal the headlines?
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