David Preece: VAR officials don't know their oxters from their elbows as Manchester City and Raheem Sterling found out

You might not find this difficult to believe but writing about football can seem like hard work at times.

Friday, 16th August 2019, 12:45 pm
Raheem Sterling saw a goal ruled out by VAR.

At the same time, I’m quite sure reading this column feels like that most weeks too so it’s not like either of us is coming away from this experience with a win.

There are times when I question whether or not I have plagiarised myself by writing something very similar to a previous column but if I ever get that feeling, I just cross my fingers and hope that your memory is as bad as mine.

When I say it’s hard work, of course I mean it relatively. Perhaps “hard going” is more appropriate. Like wading through a treacle made up of Messi v Ronaldo arguments or debates about Gareth Bale joining Manchester United. Fret not. It isn’t just you that gets bored.

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But sometimes, something jumps out at you. Something that you haven’t discussed before and it feels like a drop of rain in the desert. When it happens you can’t get to your laptop quick enough to get the words down. This week’s is one of them.

Now, we’ve all had our say on VAR. So much so, that discussing its merits and failings has become a sport in itself and is a subject I have personally gone a full 180 over, whilst yo-yoing between both ends of the scale.

Professionally it’s two sides of the same coin. It has become more of a talking point than the actual 85 minutes of football around these decisions, so as a commentator of the game it has provided yet more subject material to fill column inches and airtime.

On the flip side as a coach, whilst not being directly touched by the gaze of VAR’s all seeing eyes, it’s something that will no doubt cause both uproar and gratitude all in the space of one game.

It is yet to be implemented here in the Allsvenskan but in the past few weeks we have benefited from and been on the receiving end of penalty decisions that would have been overturned by VAR. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

What I didn’t agree with was both events shown repeatedly on big screens just to vex those wronged even further and perhaps influence the referee into evening things up to make up for their error. Yes, that does happen. They are human.

This brings me (kind of) to my main point (finally). If we are to have VAR, it seems those in the charge of such things feel it’s right that we have 100%, unadulterated, black and white, zero tolerance, gluten free, vegan, sugar free, no additives VAR.

Which means that, Willy Boly’s indiscriminate, oblivious, and most probably immaterial to the action of scoring handball is handball. When we all know it isn’t really whatever the rules say. New laws and rules can bite me.

Then there was the West Ham v Manchester City match where they managed to squeeze in a bit of football around VAR decisions.

What it took away in excitement and gave in anti-climactic moments, it also gave me that fresh football moment. A thought I had never had before. Something I have never even considered. It also gave me a reason to one of the greatest words known to man. Are you ready?

Here it is; Can you actually score a goal with your oxter? For the uninitiated, an oxter is an armpit. A throwback word from my childhood where I’d be asked if I’d washed them. Which I had.

Back to the City game. A portion of Raheem Sterling’s oxter was deemed to be in an offside position when he placed the ball in the net and the goal was ruled offside. But was he really offside?

If arms don’t count in offside decision and we’re being so precise about this, shouldn’t we define which joint, muscle or tendon too? And lets talk about the offending armpit itself?

Even if Sterling was to miraculously engineer himself in away to try and score with his armpit, there is no way of doing that without coming into contact with the inside of his bicep. Therefore that potential goal cannot be given. So why are we including the armpit in offside decisions? Precisely.

So if anyone from Stockley Park is reading this, please benefit from the time and effort I have put into this subject, so when this incident happens again, take yourself through my thought process and allow the goal. I hope that has cleared things up for everyone.

Join me next week for the next part in this series: If a ball hits your shoulder, is it handball?