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Chinese Super League

Bogus offside calls and spot kicks put the Chinese Super League’s VAR experiment in the spotlight

Another weekend of games see the role of the video assistant referee cause confusion and consternation for fans, players and coaches

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 2:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 9:47pm

VAR is fast becoming a four letter word in the Chinese Super League and the use of the video assistant referee this weekend has once again led to fans and media questioning its role and how it is used.

Introduced at the start of the season last month, it is early days for VAR in China. This was only the fifth round of games but it is proving to be as controversial in China as it is everywhere else and equally as confusing.

Despite the relatively small sample size its clear that there is much room for improvement and how it is applied. This weekend was no exception.

Ricardo Goulart was given offside after scoring against Shandong Luneng when the teams faced off at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou on Sunday night.

The Brazilian tapped in from a Deng Hanwen cross after nine minutes, a goal that had it stood would have put the champions 2-0 up, only for referee Wang Zhe to consult the video official.

Chinese internet users have commented that it was too harsh to give him offside with only his arm in an offside position, with one journalist pointing out that football’s governing body puts the focus for decision on the parts of the body that can legally play the ball.

The ref had given it, as had the CCTV sports team on their live broadcast who had changed the score to 2-0. None of the Shandong Luneng players appealed for offside.

No VAR and the goal stands but the new technology had its say in the game.

In the end it proved moot as the champions held on for a 1-0 win.

It’s not just that the wrong decisions are being made but also the delay.

In Friday’s game between Jiangsu Sainty and Guangzhou R&F there was more controversy with the VAR team informing referee Shen Yuhao to give a penalty a full minute after he had decided to wave play on. The teams had played on and the referee blew up at the halfway line to signal he was going to consult the screen. He then pointed to the spot and Alex Teixiera scored what would prove to be the winner.

The biggest charge is that it is being overused to the point that the game loses its flow. Anyone who watched the game between Hebei China Fortune and Guizhou Zhicheng back in matchweek two will have seen 11 minutes of added time played with the game ending after 101 minutes after a slew of VAR consultations.

The five goal thriller was dulled because of three of the goals using video referrals in the second half and the excess time became a discussion point around the world and heavily criticised within China.

Hebei manager Manuel Pellegrini had his say and demanded for it to be used “more reasonably” and the number of referrals limited.

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There is also confusion as to when it is used.

The referee not using VAR has proved just as controversial. Shanghai SIPG’s comeback win over Chongqing last weekend, the visitors had a goal chalked off in the 84th minute which would have levelled the scores at Shanghai Stadium. The SIPG players appealed to the referee for offside, the linesman flags and the referee whistles for offside.

Replays show that Kardec and Fernandinho were onside but VAR is not consulted, despite the Chongqing players and staff haranguing the ref to check.

It also seems unclear as to how it has been used.

Changchun Yatai met Guangzhou R& F the same weekend and VAR was in the thick of that game too.

There was a 90 second delay before a handball decision was ratified by the VAR and a penalty given. Ighalo missed that and the rebound was put away but then the ref called play back for the scorer entering the area before the penalty was struck. Correct decision but how did he make it when he was looking at the kicker the whole time? Was this VAR on the sly?

That was not the end of it in that game.

In the 95th minute of a game that had three minutes added time from the fourth official, the game was held up by another minute for a penalty incident.

The ref went to the pitchside TV to check and decided that it was handball – replays appear inconclusive – and a red card and a penalty.

The defender was dumbstruck. the winner came from the spot when the kick was taken in the 98th minute of the game.

Teething issues with VAR is not a problem unique to China and debate around the world tends to fall into one of two camps – the American sports argument that it is important to get the calls right given the importance of goals to the game with that justifying any delay against the ‘game’s gone’ brigade who oppose change and contest that the element of human error of a referee unsupported by technology is vital to the sport.

Both sides have their points but right now the inconsistent use of the technology is costing teams points, even if the decisions are correct.

The players, fans and officials still have questions.

Players appeal for its use, when it is not clear if they are allowed to, referees seem to be unsure when to use it and if they have to and fans at home and in the stands are in the dark as to what is going on.

Players are getting booked for haranguing refs even more than usual and the charge sheets are mounting up for the disciplinary committee to deal with.

Somehow, a difficult week for officials was at its comical worst at the Workers Stadium and it was not even VAR related.

The fourth official struggled with the subs board and Renato Augusto was not happy as vital time was wasted as Beijing Guoan they chased a winner against Teda.

It seems change is never easy.