A reminder for SPFL clubs voting on VAR

A note of caution – as if it were needed – for the SPFL club officials who will vote on the introduction of VAR later tomorrow came from Saturday evening's African Champions League between holders Al Ahly and Raja Casablanca.

Not that you would have known from the Confederation of African Football's silence but there was an early, outrageous penalty awarded to Al Ahly which was converted as the Egyptians recorded a 2-1 first leg win over the side from Morocco.

Check out this portion of a match report from the CAF's own official website: “The Red Devils had a perfect start, going ahead after 12 minutes courtesy of a VAR awarded penalty which was converted by Amr El Solia. Referee Jean Jacques Ndala visited the pitch-side monitor and Mohamed Al Makaazi was adjudged to have handled Ayman Ashraf’s cross.”

A quick review of the penalty incident on YouTube paints an entirely different picture. The ball from Ashraf's cross deflects off Al Makaazi's knee and subsequently deflects to safety whereupon Ndala is alerted to check the pitchside monitor. It appears from reports that Ndala had been given two views of the penalty – one which appears to suggest that the ball might have struck Al Makaazi's elbow and another which shows it goes nowhere near it

It is not the first time that ire over VAR has caused consternation in African football. In 2019, the confederation ordered the final of the Champions League between Tunisian side Esperance and Moroccans Wydad Casablanca. The latter had walked off the pitch in protest after they had a goal disallowed in the 58th minute for offside. Wydad wanted the disputed equaliser to be referred to VAR but the system in use was not working - although it had been set up at the side of the pitch and the players were not informed it could not be used.

The lesson for SPFL delegates who have spent months debating between different VAR systems from cheaper, less-comprehensive systems to ones which are more effective but also more expensive is simple: the more camera angles the better but, ultimately, there is no effective solution for incompetence or, as it so often euphemistically put 'human error' and conseqently there will be no end to the whataboutery.

Campbell has adapted well to January setback

The SPFL Championship title race will have the denouement it deserves when Kilmarnock host Arbroath on Friday evening at Rugby Park. The Dick Campbell miracle story has been the ongoing narrative of the season in Scottish football's second tier. The Arbroath manager is almost perceived as an accidental hero due to his penchant for a laugh and a joke but there can be no denying his ability to craft a team spirit and extract the maximum from his players – and from circumstance, however unfavourable at times.

The Red Lichties lost Joel Nouble, one of their best players in the first half of the season, during the January transfer window and at a time when they were top of the table – while Kilmarnock recruited impressively off the back of Derek McInnes's appointment as manager. There was a clear impact on form: despite beating Killie in their very next match, Arbroath did not win another game for a month. Meanwhile, McInnes's side went on a winning spree.

However, as Nouble departed Gayfield another player from Livingston arrived. Jack Hamilton scored the winner in that victory over Kilmarnock, and while a barren patch followed, he has since rediscovered it and then some as five goals in his last six games will attest to.

Pep in danger of repeating previous mistakes

There have been those writing in the Sunday papers suggesting that Pep Guardiola got it right by omitting half a team against Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday, thereby sacrificing an FA Cup final appearance. Sometimes it feels as if Pep and his apologists are too clever by half. The mind is cast back to last season when, with City heavy favourites on four fronts they contrived to chuck away an FA Cup semi-final and a Champions League in the space of six weeks. The rationale then, as it is now, was that the physical and mental load would be too great for the City players and that to win as many trophies as possible they would have to sacrifice the few. Back then it was Chelsea who spiked City's guns, recording a win that would ultimately give them a psychological edge going into last May's Champions League final in which they duly upset the odds again, ruining Pep's bid for a quadruple. Ultimately, it was Guardiola, with his propensity for tinkering with his team and often outwitting himself that proved City's undoing in both games against Chelsea. Perhaps, he will have learned his lesson should Liverpool and City find themselves renewing rivalries in Paris at the end of next month.

Better news for Farooq

It was hard not to feel a tinge of sympathy for Kash Farooq upon reading about his difficulty in coping with his premature retirement from boxing. The talented bantamweight, a former WBA Continental belt holder in the division, gave a recent interview in which he reflected on being told he would have to quit the sport he loves for health reasons.

“I’m still trying to get used to it,” he said. “It’s still tough. I really miss boxing myself because it was such a huge part of my life. I was supposed to be fighting in Vegas and fighting Lee McGregor again at the Hydro this year. They would have been life-changing fights.”

The better news for Farooq is that he has a new job, one that keeps him associated with boxing, as head of talent for St Andrews Sporting Club.

“Now it’s all about helping the next generation of boxers come through. To me, that’s the next best thing to fighting myself,” said Farooq.

Snooker's colourful past

It's world championship snooker fortnight, a time that reminds one of the colourful characters who peppered the sport back in the 70s and 80s. There was Dennis Taylor and his upturned glasses, Alex Higgins staggering around the arena after his 10th pint paying homage to the pub pool player's mantra that “I play better when I'm drunk”, Bill Werbeniuk threatening to crush the table under his considerable weight. Even the less edgy, 'boring' players had a bit of life about them. There was Cliff Thorburn taking an aeon to hit a shot, Ray Reardon with his Draculaesque comportment and Steve 'interesting' Davis, a man seemingly with the personality of a cue but who later demonstrated himself to be someone of wit and a skilled broadcaster. These were the days when the final would be measured in the 10s of millions as opposed to that figure for the entire championship. A proliferation of channels has obviously had some impact on the reduced audience these days but the lack of bona fide characters has likely had the biggest impact on those lower numbers.


The number of minutes Aaron Ramsey has managed in a Rangers shirt since his arrival from Juventus in January.