VARmageddon: End of Goals #1

The year is 2066: games and entire seasons are now decided purely by xG and “footballers” are strictly tasked with posting on social media. Marcus Rashford is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom but Brexit is still yet to be finalised. The FA, now ruled by the even more evil, genetically modified twin of Piers Morgan (created to step into Piers’ shoes upon his extremely timely death) has decided that not only is today’s game beyond repair in terms of football as we know it… but, Piers 2.0 has decided that with the help of now readily available time traveling technology (invented by X Æ A-12 Musk) the FA will be going back in time and correcting decisions using VAR. A select few were chosen to be sent back and tasked with overseeing the repairs to the footballing timeline once tarnished by incorrect/subjective refereeing; the group reported the outcomes and consequences of these decisions.
I am one of them and this is what happens in a footballing universe (or VARniverse, if you will) where the correct decision is always made. THIS is VARmageddon: End of Goals.

June 3rd 2002
Brazil vs. Turkey

Munsu Football Stadium, South Korea
Red card awarded to Brazil’s Rivaldo for simulation upon review

It’s the 93rd minute and Brazil are beating Turkey 2-1 on Matchday 1 of Group C at the 2002 World Cup. This is a tournament of firsts; South Korea and Japan are the first nations to ever jointly host a World Cup and it is also the first time the tournament is taking place on the continent of Asia. Pre-VARmageddon, Brazil are famously known to have won this tournament in 2002. Their triumph was heavily inspired at times by Rivaldo and went some way to shaking the demons of Brazil’s defeat against France in the final in ’98. But wait…

Rivaldo, who would join AC Milan after the tournament from Barcelona, has scored a late penalty in this particular game to seal a comeback for Brazil and put them 2-1 up against their Turkish opponents. As the clock ticks down, Brazil have a corner kick and the scorer of the game-winning penalty Rivaldo Vítor Borba Ferreira is wasting time as he prepares to take it. As Rivaldo dallies and makes no attempt to gather the ball, he is helped in that endeavor by Turkey’s Hakan Ünsal who boots the Adidas Fevernova ball (made specifically for this World Cup) at Rivaldo. The Brazilian, who is struck around the knee by the ball, goes to ground clutching his face as if the victim of “Iron” Mike Tyson (this was just days before the last fight of his original boxing career). To clarify, I’m referring to being hit in the face rather than having an ear bitten off.

In the VARniverse, Rivaldo’s reaction to being hit by the ball kicked by Turkey’s Hakan Ünsal has been brought up for review.

June 3rd 2002, Brazil vs. Turkey – Mansu Football Stadium, South Korea

Turkey’s Hakan Ünsal is shown a red card for violent conduct. Brazil’s Rivaldo is shown a red card for unsporting behaviour. This would typically be a yellow card offence but upon VAR review, referee Kim Young-Joo is so personally offended by the unconvincing nature of the theatrics that he upgrades the punishment.

In-Game Consequences:
Brazil comfortably see out the few remaining moments of time added on with ten men against a nine-man Turkey team, who already had Alpay Fehmi Özalan sent off for his role in the penalty that led to Rivaldo’s winner.

Bigger Picture:
Much as the punishment for Rivaldo’s simulation is originally upgraded from a yellow to a red card, the length of his suspension is also extended to three games. This is the result of a collaborative effort between the Japanese and South Korean FAs, as well as FIFA, to show the world that their tournament is not in fact a joke, despite Rivaldo’s antics and the small matter of a widely alleged match fixing scandal surrounding South Korea’s own national team. Rivaldo misses the two remaining group fixtures against China and Costa Rica, as well as Brazil’s round of 16 game against Belgium. Brazil win all three games comfortably anyway.

Having performed so well without Rivaldo and with the full knowledge that he would be supremely roasted for his dive by the travelling England fans inside the Shizuoka Stadium in Japan for their World Cup quarter final game, Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari decides to bench the star who is once again available for selection. Without Rivaldo, Brazil fall to defeat against a Danny Mills-inspired England. It’s Danny himself who scores the Three Lions’ winner via a coolly executed “Panenka” penalty (remember, this is an alternate universe after all).

So, Brazil crash out of the tournament when they were seemingly the favorites to avenge their spectacular failure of the final four years earlier. As for England, in the semi finals they succumb to the eventual winners of the 2002 World Cup, Turkey. The final is contested between Turkey and Germany, and the Turkish team’s success over Die Mannschaft directly influences a young Mesut Özil to one day opt for his Ottoman heritage rather than the German national team. On that note and given Mesut’s known friendship with Turkish President Dictator Erdoğan pre-VARmageddon, it’s particularly ironic that the winning goal in the final is scored by Hakan Şükür. Once a member of Erdoğan’s political party in his post-footballing career, Şükür fled to northern California where he was genuinely part-owner of a bakery and cafe, later earning a living as an Uber driver. However, in the VARniverse, fans of pastry, bean water and ridesharing services will be disappointed as Şükür’s World Cup winning goal spurs him all the way to the top in Turkish politics instead of landing him a career in the restaurant industry. Hakan Şükür overthrows his old friend and foe Erdoğan’s regime and becomes the new President of Turkey. Essentially, we don’t have Şükür’s cinnamon rolls here but we do have newfound democracy in Turkey.

In VAR we trust.

Keitel Frankle

Co-Founder, United Mates Football Podcast

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