Anyone who knows Italian football had little doubt it would end this way. The system that was supposed to finish controversy was caught in the eye of the storm over the weekend’s games in Serie A. If it was meant to put the conspiracy theories to bed, it was a case of so near and yet so VAR.
There were matches where the technology was not used when it probably should have been and instances where it was called upon and still seemed to get things wrong. It was all too much for many pundits - not long on patience anyway - to stand. “A black Sunday,” opined La Gazzetta while Tuttosport went further with “A nightmare Sunday”. The video assistant referee was about as popular as putting ham and pineapple on a pizza in Naples.
And, of course, the clubs which found themselves on the wrong end of a dubious decision were not slow to cry foul. Bologna’s Roberto Donadoni lamented the inconsistency over two penalty claims, Walter Zenga quipped that perhaps the TV screen was not working properly in Crotone, while Lazio supremo Claudio Lotito alleged his team would be top of Serie A without the instances where things had gone against his side. The cases of a persecution complex had become an epidemic.
It was hard, on reviewing the footage, not to have significant sympathy for the teams affected. They were all entitled to feel hard done by on the evidence of what we watched play out around the country at the weekend. But does that mean we should scrap the system? I’m not really inclined to believe it does.
I think the Corriere dello Sport perhaps summed up the situation best. “It’s like giving a smartphone to your grandfather,” it reckoned, which was a neat way to describe it. The question is not really about the technology, but rather about the humans who operate it and remain, quite clearly, fallible. The match officials have had to take on this whole new era overnight, which was bound to lead to some teething troubles. However, we really do need - quite literally - to see the bigger picture.
Watching this season in Italy, VAR has still got more decisions right than wrong - and by quite some distance. Offside goals which would previously have stood have been ruled out, penalties given in error have been taken back and nasty fouls which might have gone unpunished have received their more than merited red card. That has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?
That’s not to belittle the pain suffered by the sides on the receiving end of obvious injustices - in fact, it is only likely to make it feel more acute. But, remember, this is Italy, where managers and Presidents know that a good conspiracy plays well with the fans. It also serves as a smokescreen to hide any shortcomings your own team might actually have. VAR is simply the latest in a long line of our pantomime villains.
The system is not perfect but, then again, what process designed and run by man ever was? I can’t bring myself to buy the portrayal of some plot in favour of certain sides or against others - at least not once I have calmed down from seeing a key decision go against my team.
There remains a subjective element to some VAR verdicts that we will never eliminate and other mistakes will probably still sneak through, but that doesn’t mean we should throw the technological baby out with the bathwater.
Clubs deserve an explanation of the most glaring blunders we have seen, of course, and every effort should be made to avoid them happening again. But we cannot - and should not - turn back the clock. If nothing else, it has given us all a new bogeyman to direct the finger of blame towards when the inevitable pain of defeat afflicts us.