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Is it time to consign VAR to Room 101?

The offside rule was introduced to stop goal-hanging, not to measure the amount some nostril hair was the wrong side of the line

February 27, 2020

9:22 AM

27 February 2020

9:22 AM

Thankfully, Tyson Fury is as good at boxing as he is terrible at singing. But he really should pick on someone his own size: he’s a colossal 6ft 9in tall and 273lb in weight. And he can punch. And he can weave. And he can feint and dip. And he is unbelievably fast. A 40lb advantage is just not on when the bigger man can fight.

Quite often exceptionally big men can’t though. The Russian Nikolai Valuev, now a politician, was known as the Beast from the East when he boxed. He was 7ft tall and weighed more than 320lb, the tallest and heaviest world boxing champion there has ever been, but he wasn’t much cop. Primo Carnera was much the same: 6ft 7in and 265lb, but pretty moderate.

But Fury is big and, boy, can he fight too, and the bout in Las Vegas was akin to a middleweight taking on a lightweight. Maybe there should be a new category for fighters over 265lb: colossusweight, titanicweight? And boxing fans eager for an all–British reunification fight with Anthony Joshua should be careful what they wish for. I doubt even AJ will relish stepping through the ropes for that.

A lot of people aren’t so keen on Fury. He has had issues with booze and recreational drugs as well as mental illness. He failed a drugs test (he says his high level of testosterone was due to eating uncastrated wild boar), and has battled with obesity and depression. He has also made some choice remarks about homosexuality. And if you’re not a fan, you might say he’s been given a free pass because of his frankness about mental illness. I would say: give the guy a break. He’s a heavyweight boxer from a traveling community who was brought up in a caravan and left school at some ungodly age. He’s not a fellow of an Oxford college. Let bygones be bygones.

Before the world plunges into self-induced psychosis over VAR, we should just bear this in mind: first, the offside rule was introduced to stop goal-hanging, not to measure the amount some nostril hair was the wrong side of the line. And second, VAR was brought in to correct obvious howlers, not for forensic analysis of a move, leading, if at all possible, to the cancellation of a goal. After another weekend of VAR controversy chant, is it time to admit the system is horribly flawed and should be confined to Room 101?

But in the surprisingly good news about soccer department, what does Pep Guardiola think he’s doing by guaranteeing total loyalty to Manchester City? It’s hard to get one’s head around it, but it restores a sliver of faith in the still beautiful if slightly tarnished game.

Meanwhile, in the typically bad news about soccer department, the fifth-round matches of the FA Cup will all be held midweek, with no replays: a further dismantling of the tradition that once established the world’s oldest soccer competition as the most compelling in the sport. Stand by for the whole FA Cup to be held in a week in February in Dubai.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s UK magazine. Subscribe to the US edition here.

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