The HamburgHammer Column
Happy Easter everyone! This will be a slightly different column than usual because it’s the Easter weekend and I suppose we all have friends and family to meet, trips to the countryside scheduled or maybe a nice lunch or dinner with mates with the odd bevvy thrown in for good measure.
Plus, after the Leicester game, I do actually begin to run out of explanations or clever words, none that haven’t been said a thousand times before anyway…I will not talk about the entire game, but rather one of the key moments affecting the outcome.
We’ve seen all this before of course, beautiful new claret carpet or not. A combination of inadequate West Ham defending and some mind-boggingly bad calls by the refereeing crew gave us a 2:2 draw against the Foxes that felt very much like a defeat.
Had Perez’s second goal, scored from a definite onside position, been allowed to stand as it should have as per the rules of the game, we would have raced into a 3:1 lead with only a few minutes to spare and I doubt even Leicester would have come back from that scoreline within a matter of minutes…
I know the offside rule is quite difficult to get right for the human eye to begin with. With some passes you have to watch the ball being struck, say, fourty or fifty yards to your left AND at the very same moment compare the position of two or more players you are either in line with (if you are a decent linesman) or who are further upfield from you.
In any case the human eye is not constructed in such a way to confidently make that call. I suppose evolution didn’t consider this a vital skill to have for humans in order to survive. Football and offside positions may be important to us now, they weren’t for our ancestors leaving their caves to hunt for deer or sabre-toothed cats.
That’s why it is so handy to have all them cameras inside the big league stadiums nowadays.
They represent useful technology, capable of things that humans can only dream of.
They allow you to freeze the pictures at the exact time of the ball or cross leaving the foot, you can follow computer drawn lines (or the cut of the grass sometimes) to determine if the striker was level or already in front of the defender at that exact moment.
In Perez’s case it was not even a close call. That situation will be called onside in probably 95% of games, for whatever reason in this particular game West Ham (once again) were on the receiving end of a result-changing dodgy call.
Don’t get me wrong, I know West Ham are to blame for not scoring more goals when we were all over Leicester earlier in the game, we also hit the post and could have made sure that no wayward decision of the referee would take victory away from us, we failed to do that, so the blame cannot be put solely at the referee’s/linesman’s door.
VAR will make sure that the most blatant calls will be overturned – and rightly so. It shouldn’t take too long to do, especially if the decision is reasonably clear as in Perez’s case (or the Liverpool/Milner offside goal against us that was allowed to stand). Will it give us less controversial incidents to discuss after the game, on a blog or in the pub ?
Probably, but I will gladly take that sacrifice in exchange for more correct calls happening in football games that determine the fates of players, managers, staff and fans everywhere. So contrary to the lyrics of the famous “War“ song by Edwin Starr (or Bruce Springsteen if you prefer his version), for me the next line after the question what it is good for my reply in terms of VAR will certainly not be “Absolutely nothing!”.
On the contrary, VAR will change the game for the better like in many other sports where VAR works really well. I suppose in not a single sport was VAR introduced as just a nice-to-have gimmick
It costs money, it takes a certain amount of time, it can be complicated, it changes the flow of a game. But other sports would not have introduced VAR as a crucial part to their game if they hadn’t seen a necessity to do that. The same very much applies to football.
Too much is depending on referee calls in football today to just brush blatantly wrong calls aside as “part of the game”. If things are wrong, you put them right.
A while ago the back pass rule was changed, so goalkeepers could no longer pick up back passes from their defenders time and time again, slowing the game down, making it very tedious to watch sometimes – I recently watched a game from the Seventies on DVD and it was back passes galore and it made me wonder why it took them so long to change that rule.
Or take goal-line technology. A brilliant improvement for the game and one that’s been so successful that I’m asking myself why it wasn’t invented ten years earlier.
I for one will be looking forward a lot to VAR coming to the PL next season. As a West Ham fan I know we will keep losing games. We always have and as a club we find ever more elaborated ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That is fine and I got plenty of practise of getting used to it, it’s annoying but in most cases, by now, water off a duck’s back. But losing a game because a linesman didn’t pay attention or missed his appointment wit Specsavers ? Or due to a referee trying to prove a point, basking in his own sense of importance, trying to give an edge to the big side on the pitch as surely they deserve to get the win more than one of those unglamourous and skint sides who are just there to make up the numbers ?
VAR will not completely get rid of big team bias. But the referees will have to think a lot harder (and be clever about it) if they still want to give the big sides the edge.
I can live with the remaining games of the season being played without VAR in operation. We have missed the motorway exit for 7th place now for sure, so let’s just beat Spurs (a first win at that stadium as the away team surely is a massive incentive in itself) and get this bloody season over with! Once VAR is up and running, we can easily find other stuff to get riled up about…VAR will not keep fans from getting the hump…COYI!!!
Hamburg football update:
Fairly unsuccessful weekend for the big clubs. HSV could only draw against relegation candidates Aue while St.Pauli got a tonking at Heidenheim (losing 0:3).
HSV are still in 2nd place but they will feel clubs like Union Berlin or Paderborn breathing down their necks for promotion while St.Pauli have actually played themselves out of contention at this point.
As for Concordia the women’s team didn’t play, the first team will play away to Buchholz this afternoon, 30 miles to the south of Hamburg, against the club famous for being the only club in this league to serve horsemeat sausages at their games, well, it’s an area famous for breeding horses, so I suppose it’s no surprise it’s a local delicacy there.
If I go to the game, I will give the sausage a miss though – those recent fatalities around various racecourses around Britain made me have a rethink.
The big news for the Cordi U23s was their extra time cup win on Good Friday to give them a place in the local Holsten Cup Final. The price at stake is mostly symbolic, it’ll be about 250 quid or so for the club coffers, a few crates of free beer, courtesy of the sponsor and a shiny little trophy for the cabinet. For the boys though it’s obviously a big thing, especially as their opposition will be a side from a league above them. And it will be nice for them to play in front of a crowd of 500 for a change – and not 50 as for regular league games…