The World Cup has a long history of injustices. Diego Maradona’s infamous “hand of God” goal, in which the legendary player discreetly used his hand to send the ball into the net, helped Argentina beat England in the quarterfinals in 1986. In the final between England and West Germany in 1966, a shot by the striker Geoff Hurst apparently failed to cross the goal line, but the goal was awarded anyway, breaking the Brits out of a gritty tie.
In so many cases throughout soccer’s past, access to video replays would have helped the referees correct their mistakes, possibly altering the course of the match—and history. But until recently, soccer has been stubbornly resistant to such technology. Electronic devices that help determine whether a goal was scored were implemented in the previous World Cup, and this year, FIFA finally gave video replays a shot. Huddled in a central operation room in Moscow, a video-assistant referee—or VAR—and three other assistants with access to several cameras on the field have communicated with each match’s main referee through an earpiece, helping out with difficult calls.
While replays have reversed a few bad decisions, the outcome has been largely disappointing. This is in part because the new technology has brought with it many new complications. But it’s also because soccer, at its most fundamental level, is made to be unjust.