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Boring VAR and the emotional rollercoaster of Tottenham v Chelsea | Football



Boring VAR and the emotional rollercoaster of Tottenham v Chelsea | Football

Heung-Min Son suffered the disappointment of seeing his goal ruled out after a VAR check (Picture: Getty)

How many emotions do you regularly feel? For me yesterday night, trying to trap a spider using the lid from a hairspray and a Boots Christmas voucher, the answer was initially two: fear, teamed with a sprinkling of pride I was taking this on.

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When the lid proved too small and the spider darted down the door and onto my jeans, a new range was unleashed. This time it was something like disgust, as well as the prickling anticipation of a future terror. What if I forgot this by the morning and reached carelessly for the spider-
home jeans?

Scientists now believe we experience a range of between 27 and 34,000 different emotions, although most people can comfortably only identify three as they are happening. Those are happiness, sadness and anger.

During Tottenham 1 Chelsea 4 last week I experienced all 34,000, though page restrictions mean I have not been given space to itemise every single one here.

It is yet more evidence that watching football should get its own slot on the national curriculum. It benefits kids to be emotionally aware from a young age, right? Let them watch Chelsea 4 Man City 4 with an emotion wheel and a pencil before first break.

Because a goal in football means such an enormous change in fortunes for both sides – compared, say, with a three-pointer in basketball or even a try in rugby – the extremes you can feel in a single game are unlike anything else.

When Heung-min Son scored Tottenham’s second (subsequently disallowed) goal in the Chelsea game I turned to my pal Lars in the pub with wide eyes and, in a disbelieving whisper proclaimed, ‘We’re winning this EIGHT-nil’ (joy, amazement).

For a short while Son had plenty to celebrate but the high did not last

For a short while Son had plenty to celebrate but the high did not last (Picture: PA)

As it turned out I had managed to overvalue the importance of an early goal (optimism), particularly when Son’s was ruled out for offside (disappointment).

The prolonged check punctured the Spurs momentum (frustration) but as this was only 14 minutes in it seems a little feverish to claim we were ultimately robbed (rage).

VAR added a clunky layer of drama to the Tottenham game, not to mention all the injury time. In the City match, where two penalties were given and former referees have said Anthony Taylor needed more help from his Video Assistants, it felt better. More like a football game being facilitated by referees than a refereeing performance with a football backdrop.

The decisions were kept largely on the pitch and the flow felt natural. It is frustrating still to be talking so relentlessly of VAR. But our guest on my podcast The Football Gods this week, Wolves assistant manager Shaun Derry, explained the issue best when he said it’s deprived us of that wild rush when a goal goes in – the game-changing certainty, the permission to celebrate.

VAR screens are now a regular sight at Premier League games

VAR screens are now a regular sight at Premier League games (Picture: Getty)

At the Parc des Princes last Friday, it was a similar story. My favourite moment in the whole game was the mid-air chip from Kylian Mbappe to set up PSG’s disallowed fourth goal against Montpellier. It’s gone, it means nothing.

In our proposed Emotions While Watching Football class, VAR would undoubtedly lead the teacher to talk about patience and the importance of managing our emotions and recognising authority. Worthy topics. But not at the expense of the more fun ones.

Football is entertainment, it’s what many of us live for. The highs are unsustainable without pause – we need the ball going out of play every so often and the occasional lull or we would pass out after the first five minutes – but inexplicable geometry classes after every key moment are a trade-off too big in the hunt for precision.

Football is there to wow you. To make you realise you have been holding your breath in awe for the last 90 seconds and Cole Palmer’s on the ball again.

It’s about the spirit not the letter of the law. It’s about making you feel things… 33,999 things. Just not boredom.

Or fear for that matter. I never did find that spider.

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