Two nine-word sentences encapsulate both Man City’s modern history and the agony and ecstasy of being a football fan.
Seven years ago, ‘I swear you’ll never see anything like this again’ announced City’s first Premier League title at the expense of their suddenly not-so-noisy neighbours.
Last night, ‘They’re checking for a potential offside during the goal’ ripped the aux cable out of the Etihad and left fans sitting in stunned silence.
For 90 seconds City fans were delirious. The giddy heights of 2012 matched by an absurd passage into an inaugural Champions League semi-final. Strangers turned to strangers and embraced them like long-lost lovers.
Raheem Sterling and Pep Guardiola exploded with a heady mix of joy and relief while Mauricio Pochettino sunk into despair and Googled the next one-way flight to Mars.
Then came those nine words.
Pep ripped his gran’s cardigan off and threw it to the ground in time honoured fashion of someone who’s just offered a rival outside into the pub car park for a scrap.
But there was no enemy for Pep to fight. That’s the point of VAR. The decision to erase Sterling’s strike was a correct one.
Sergio Aguero was undoubtedly offside, despite the protestations from countless City fan accounts on Twitter who’d suddenly discovered a degree in geophysics.
VAR did its job, but at what cost?
Spurs had already been robbed of a moment of joy when Fernando Llorente’s bundled finish was referred to the video referee. Living in the moment has become a dangerous occupation when celebrating a goal.
Fans go to football matches to celebrate goals, not marginal offside calls which have to be referred to a cabin in Heathrow to sort.
The outpouring of emotion, both positive and negative, is an essential part of what makes going to the football so therapeutic.
Because of the footballing dinosaurs’ quest for sanitised perfection in a game dominated by grey areas, there’s a very real threat of losing the magic.
If we get to the stage where fans become accustomed to waiting five seconds to celebrate a goal, or minutes in the case of a VAR referral, then we’re in trouble.
Maybe that’s an outdated view which fails to acknowledge the theatre of VAR. As a neutral, VAR brings an element of alluring chaos to games which would otherwise be of no real interest.
VAR is right. City fans would have been fuming if they’d been denied a first Champions League semi-final because of an offside goal.
But VAR is also wrong because it takes away from the magic of a goal, and the seconds that follow it. It’s so easy to get caught up in life’s 24-hour news cycle. Celebrating a goal was one of the last remaining bastions in which people live in the moment.
We have reached football’s tipping point. The robots are coming.
READ MORE FROM THE WORLD OF DREAM TEAM:
- Mike Dean to M1ke Deanbot- How far off AI referees are we?
- David Silva’s new hair has ruined him and nothing you can say will convince me otherwise
- Man United’s false dawn proved to be Ajax’s joyful awakening