For once in what feels like a millennium, an international friendly mattered.
It was not because of the relatively tepid affair between France and Spain on Tuesday evening, the likes of which have been replicated ad nauseam. It was because of the first official use of video assistant referee, or VAR, aiding decisions in-game for most of us, it was glorious.
While this might be a very, very isolated incident, I actually cheered when France’s opener was ruled out. Having consulted the man in the van, the officials rightfully disallowed it for a clear offside on second viewing in an incident which would have been tough for the linesman to pick up by taking just one look at it.
Much like with goal line technology, the players quickly accepted the decision and carried on with the game. No controversy, no anger from those on the field, just acceptance and a desire to get on with things.
It came in to play twice more, double-checking the penalty decision and overriding a given offside for the second goal. All three were key moments, all three took on average 20-30 seconds to sort out properly and most importantly, all three were correct.
End of the debate, right? Well, unsurprisingly in the world of football, no.
There is no doubt that when France’s ‘goal’ was chalked off, the air in the stadium deflated. The players reacted to that, which they absolutely should not have done, and sank back into their shells while Spain recovered before going on to regain control of the game.
The main issue with that should be communication with the fans. The short stoppage was still long enough to potentially leave a few puzzled, especially with it being the first time anyone has used the system, so in the future there should be a better way to translate that to the fans which will come in time.
A more bizarre argument comes from how long to process took, which for at least two of those situations was about the same amount of time it takes for a referee to make a decision in the first place. They ruled out the goal in the same amount of time it would have taken to get back to the centre-circle and the penalty incident was barely paused at all.
Only the offside on Gerard Deulofeu took a little longer, 40 seconds exactly, but nothing significant. Those standing on this hill feel like those that complain that it takes time for meat to cook would still complain even if a beautiful steak is made as a result.
For those afraid of the debates going away and heaven forbid, the polarising opinions of some television analysts go wasted, please see the door. They will not get everything 100% correct, as evidenced in sports like the NFL or NBA, and with officiating at least partially subjective, you can always look at anything sideways.
In fact, we might even see some insightful, tactical punditry creep in because of this too, imagine that. Maybe that’s a little too hopeful.
A lot of the French players moaned and groaned about the kinks or it killing the “passion”, but there’s a strong feeling that if it had aided them, the chatter may have been very different. Players want to have a shield to hide behind their failings and with less blame on the officials, there’s more scrutiny rightfully on their own performances.
Don’t we all want a fairer game? Don’t we want the matters to be decided by the players and not the man in the middle? Then why is there such a ridiculous split?
Those that feel like the game is slipping away need to really get a grip. In a professional sport where a lot can be on the line, especially at club level, this is an advancement that has desperately needed to happen for a number of years.
So, get a ticket, hop on this bandwagon and hold on the side rails, keeping your hands in the ride at all times. It will be a bit of a bumpy ride initially, as at least partially evidenced during the game, but it is really going to be worth it in the end.
VAR’s, they are the future.