I was a kid when Chelsea first played Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League .
Having had my young life devastated once already by John Terry’s penalty miss against Manchester United in the final a year earlier, I really couldn’t endure another heartbreak this time around. And yet...
We all know the story of the game. Andres Iniesta’s fantastic late equaliser knocked Chelsea out in the midst of three very strong calls for penalties which were all rejected by referee Tom Henning Ovrebo in the dying minutes.
One of these, Gerard Pique’s handball, was as blatant an appeal for a penalty as you’re ever likely to see. The other two were also strong shouts, however none were awarded with what could’ve been a crucial spot-kick.
Ballack was going bonkers, Drogba was getting abusive and I was sat staring at the TV, my heart in tatters... again.
I watched the game in a sports bar with my father. As we emerged from the building, shell-shocked, not saying much to one another, my conviction was strong: There was going to be some kind of investigation into this. I thought justice would be done and, at the very least, we would find out what was going on with the referee in that game.
Of course, no such investigation happened.
That night, football taught me several incredibly valuable lessons about life - the main one being that it’s not fair.
Life’s not FAIR, the world’s not FAIR and people aren’t FAIR. So why should football be FAIR?
Often top players and managers are asked the clichéd philosophical question about football: “What is it actually all about?” Only Jose Mourinho has landed close to the truth in his answer.
“Football is emotion,” he declares.
He’s right because, when you think about it, it’s bizarre to contemplate how strongly we all feel about football. Outsiders see it as 22 men kicking a ball about on a pitch, but to us it’s so much more.
What people don’t realise is that you have to embrace the emotion of football at both ends of the spectrum to fully appreciate it.
Winning deservedly is a nice feeling, losing deservedly is a crap one. And while losing undeservedly is horrible, winning undeservedly is incredible!
There’s very little better than getting one over on a rival, but to do it in a way that leaves their fans furiously distraught and thinking they’ve been ripped off is even better!
The entire philosophy behind VAR and making football fair takes away the biggest possible high available for football fans – an undeserved victory.
Three years after my 2009 heartbreak, Chelsea faced Barcelona again. That was my justice. Beautiful, poetic justice.
I didn’t need the right decisions to be made and I didn’t need technology to interfere. If VAR had put things right in 2009, the win in 2012 would not have meant anywhere near as much.
Seeing Lionel Messi hide his head inside his shirt while Fernando Torres did a knee slide on the Nou Camp pitch was oh so much sweeter knowing what had occurred three years earlier.
When we then went on to lift that trophy after beating Bayern Munich , it was one of the greatest moments of my life.
The time taken to reach video-aided decisions is annoying. The disruption to the flow of the game and the confusion among fans in the ground are also problems. Nevertheless, they are not the main issue here.
Football is currently finely poised as a perfectly human sport. We have a set of rules, but they’re not always followed. We have man-made error in the sport. We have the capability for people to commit crimes and escape unpunished.
Fans haven’t grasped that this is what makes the sport so perfect.
If people continue to push for things such as retrospective action, goal line technology and now VAR, we’ll soon find ourselves watching a game that doesn’t make us feel the way it used to. Football is just going to become like any other sport. Football is going to become like tennis .
Picture the scene: You sit in the stand at your home stadium, during yet another boring pause, and the crowd around you begins to build a long “ohhhhhhh” as they wait to see a video-aided decision being shown on the big screen.
You’ll find yourself looking around wondering what the hell has happened to the sport you used to love. And what’s worse is that you’ll only have yourselves to blame.