The VAR and the Mano de Dios

The appointment with “Loquor”, the column edited by Carmelo Pennisi, is back

Carmelo Pennisi

“It was a battle, but in the

my battlefield “.

It is the 51st of one of the quarter-finals of a world championship most loaded with meaning of all time that between Argentina and England, and Steve Hodge strong midfielder of Aston Villa now promised to Tottenham, has just raised the “Atzeca” ball to ” bell tower ”in the unfortunate direction of Peter Shilton, a true legend of English football. The defense of the “Whites” of England (Kenny Sansom, Gary Stevens and Terry Fenwick) has been completely cut off and she just has to watch Shilton raise his fist towards the sky in an attempt to reach the ball towards which Diego Armando Maradona is also is catapulted, jumping significantly higher than the Southampton goalkeeper. The Argentine “Diez” performs the miracle of rolling the ball towards the net with what seems an incredible header to everyone in the frenzy of a live football match. The referee, the Tunisian Alì Bin Nasser, is about to validate the goal, while Maradona runs like a runaway horse screaming “Goal! goal! ”, followed by“ Checho ”(Sergio Batista) strangely worried to look in the direction of Bogdan Dochev, the Bulgarian linesman, who remained motionless with the clear intention of attracting the referee’s attention. The English players yell at Bin Nasser that Maradona scored with his hand, that the goal is clearly to be canceled. The Tunisian referee thinks about it for a moment and, seeing him motionless rather than intent on returning to the center of the field, decides to go and consult with the collaborator. “Ali, that son of a bitch scored with his hand. The goal is to be canceled. And if you want to know my opinion, he really left with the intention of cheating us and the world: it was not something dictated by instinct, he wanted to simulate a header. If I were you I would not just limit myself to not giving the goal. That must be severely punished. We are in the quarter-finals of a world championship, they are watching us from every corner of the planet. It would be appropriate to give a lesson in ethics and sporting loyalty. If you don’t believe me, consult the images at the VAR ”.

Bin Nasser stops in front of the images for 5 minutes, he wants to be sure not so much of the coup, immediately detected, but of the unsportsmanlike intention of the Argentine champion. At the 56th of Argentina-England, the goal was canceled and Maradona was sent off for serious unsportsmanlike conduct. Then Gary Lineker scores the winning goal in the 81st and England flies to the semifinals. No, it is not dystopia (or maybe yes) that last in these few lines, it is having rewritten history with the help of technology, capable of redesigning and bringing everything back to normal, managing to defeat the epic produced by extraordinary men, to weaken, both on the pitch and in the stands, that unique and unrepeatable delirium of the emotional impact of a goal, capable, according to the literary talent of Manuel Vazquez Montalban, of hitting and lifting the opponent’s net in the same way as “like the best winds they lift the skirts of the girls in bloom ”. If Bin Nasser had had the help of the VAR or even just an instant photo (among the many present in the immense archive of “Getty Images”) of the encounter between Shilton’s fist and Maradona’s in the sky of the “Azteca Stadium” of Mexico City, an entire people’s redemption network would simply be undone. No more sentences of affection, no metaphors of life, no pages of great literature, and the lights go out on an Oscar nominated film as well. The English would have taken back the Falklands / Malvinas again, this time without firing a single shot, and the genius of “Villa Fiorito” would have ended up prematurely in the locker room without ever being able to reveal to the world “the goal of the century”, achieved exactly four minutes after his coup.

This is how machines are, they give a sense of security while canceling man and his free will, making a sport like football almost useless, born to remember, more than many other things, life as an infinite parable of choice. The twenty-year torments of Ulysses between “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” begin with the kidnapping of Helen by Paris, giving over the centuries to his countless readers the certainty of being free, even in front of God or gods, in passing this world. A robbery, carrying it out or even just planning it, is often the clear sign of a need or a ransom, it is to be convinced, like “Robin Hood” and his company from “Sherwood Forest”, to theorize stealing as a legitimate option and even necessary. “Are we the billiard cue, the player or the ball?”, Zygmunt Bauman asks himself about free will, and whatever the answer is, the great Polish sociologist does not hesitate to remember the main task, from which he does not we can derogate, to give a shape to our life. To live or die, to redeem ourselves or to damn ourselves requires a necessary space of freedom and a flow of emotions, without which the existential horror of George Orwell (“we are engaged in a game we cannot win. Some failures are better than others, this is everything “) prefigured in his” 1984 “would pass from the literary page to reality.

And if Homer, Orwell and Baumann are right, then the emergence of the “Video Assistant Referee” (VAR) has already removed, and is continuing to remove, countless pages of stories about the most loved and followed sport in the world from the book of life. The player scores a goal and instead of making the hearts “explode” they “stop” them by suddenly connecting them, through the eyes, to the distant point where a car is about to issue a sentence. The hug of the players immediately after the goal has now become a parody, almost a mockery at the sentiment, since after the hug begins the waiting to know if it was true glory. Football is loved given the acceptance, since its inception, of admitting the avoidance of the rule as one of the possibilities to win against the strength of talent and money, and he tells you this with a clarity that stuns but does not disorient: ” I can rob you, man. It’s my right, you know? Otherwise everything would remain motionless in your wealth and my poverty. So why come into the world ”? Maradona plays the “thief” (“whoever steals from the thief gets a hundred years of forgiveness”. Maradona dixit) in the world of vision, but after only four minutes he loads an entire nation on his shoulders and shows that even with an immanent beauty like the ” Tango ”the Argentines know how to live, because salvation is varied and completely subjugated to predestination. The champion knows how no “string theory” of “quantisca” memory can take that “Hand of God” away from him and then runs almost sixty meters, ball and chain, in just ten seconds accompanied by the voice syncopated by the emotion of Victor Hugo Morales, and the only thing that doesn’t jump like a pin is the English goal where he goes to deposit an immortal ball, recently auctioned (starting point 3 million pounds) by Ali Bin Nasser.

“Barrilete cosmico” (cosmic kite) crowns him the most famous television commentary in the history of football by Morales, who apologizes because he feels like crying live. “Ten seconds is a long period of time in the life of a hero” Jorge Valdano would later say, privileged in having followed, running alongside him, those sixty meters in which the whole history of football was going to bow. “They tried to stop him foul on three occasions, but he only saw the finish line – recalled recently Bin Nasser -. Each time he resisted the charges of the British and I gave the “advantage”. I was convinced that the defenders would take him down and I was already mentally ready to whistle the penalty, but to my enormous surprise he dribbled everyone, defenders and goalkeeper, scoring a wonderful goal. Having granted those “advantages” makes me proud “. Ah, how much charm free will possesses, it will be because it is perennially placed in the balance between devil and holiness, it will be because a machine will never be able to understand the rarefied beauty of football, where the beating heart resides in everything that cannot be seen. We were born with an attitude of happiness but with the courage to accept the “Cross”, and without freedom we would be little. Ten seconds, ten touches, and a hero with the number ten should convince the masters of the football steam to let go from time to time the wrong inspiration, and never mind if every now and then we miss a world goal made with the hand. Always better than having forced our emotions to bow before the logic of the technique. “One day – wrote Albert Einstein – machines will be able to solve all problems, but none of them will ever be able to pose one”. It would be good, at this point, to run to review Maradona’s goal “stolen” from the English. And see it again, and again, and again. Good luck.

Writer, screenwriter and director. A very grenade fan and already co-author with the late Anthony Weatherill of the “Loquor” column on Toro News that he continues to curate in honor and memory of him. Among his numerous works and screenplays, he includes that of the film “Ora e per semper”, in memory of the Grande Torino.

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The VAR and the Mano de Dios