After a Christmas week when last Wednesday 105 years ago there was allegedly fraternisation between British and German troops when a game of football was played out in no man’s land – fighting resumed when an offside decision was disputed – would things have turned out differently if VAR had been in use? Real Mallorca players and staff return from their Christmas “holibobs” tomorrow to prepare for their upcoming La Liga and Copa del Rey games. The first is an away match at Granada on Sunday January 5 at 12 noon, marking the halfway point in the season. This is followed by a cup match in Castille/Leon against third division outfit Zamora on Saturday January 11 at 12 midday. Zamora are top of Group 8 in La Tercera with 55 points from 19 games, scoring an incredible 50 goals, are unbeaten, drawing once, keeping 10 clean sheets.
This really is a tough tie for Mallorca against a part-time team who are breaking all sorts of European records.
For the Granada match we’ll be without leading scorer Budimir and midfielder Baba, both are suspended. Six months ago (ish!) on June 23, we won promotion back to La Liga after a six-year absence. On a hot sticky night in a rocking Son Moix we did the impossible to beat Deportivo La Coruña 3-2 on aggregate in a game nobody who was there will ever forget. Doing what we did that night was an achievement in itself but even the staunchest Mallorquinista knew that everything else starting on August 18 was going to be so much harder. It’s turned out to be just that as we start the second part of the season one point above the relegation bottom three. Once again our away form has been poor and it’s now a case that we somehow must start picking up points on the road if we want to remain in top flight Spanish football. Reinforcements in several positions are top priority and we await with bated breath what players will be brought in by director of football Javi Recio next month. In a recent interview he talked about the difficulties we’re having being hampered by the smallest salary cap in La Primera – 27 million euros. Recio said that last June Mallorca were keen to strengthen the squad but without knowing whether or not they’d be promoted or stay in La Segunda, the choices available became more difficult.
The upcoming January window is fraught with doubt. Recio went on “Even if you have money you have to depend on a player wanting to come here. The fact that we’ve finished the year outside the bottom three makes things slightly more attractive. There’s no point in signing players who cannot adapt for at least a month like those who spend the first part of the season sitting on the bench. It’s also difficult to sign good Segunda players, if their clubs are heading for promotion or play-offs they won’t release them. We were lucky with Budimir (he came last January) as his Italian club Crotone was strapped for money.”
The repercussions on the Sevilla VAR game rumble on. In all the 34 years I’ve followed Real Mallorca, I’ve never seen so many supporters so angry. Once upon a time games rested on one or two controversial decisions, now with this new technology we’re seeing 5 or 10 strongly contentious judgements. There’s no doubt VAR has made an impact – and is the cause of many arguments. It’s like any other contentious decision made by a refereeing human error, only now the rage is against a machine. After the Sevilla result both our coach and general manager kept their mouths shut for fear of reprisals from the authorities in Madrid. However CEO Maheta Molango did comment that we’d reached a point where it’s necessary to reflect on these decisions and is it the kind of football we want?
Budimir’s equaliser was clearly on-side but the one that irked our fans was when Lago was bundled over in the area and the referee took NO action. There are decisions being made now that no one thought of at the time of VAR’s introduction. We thought we’d equalised when Budimir scored. The fans were delirious with joy then we had all the celebrations taken away by a ridiculous offside decision that didn’t exist. It took over three minutes to sort out the situation. The offside law needs amending to give strikers a little more leeway. The second Sevilla goal, the penalty was just ludicrous. Baba made minimal contact with Jordan. Tackles happen and you can find penalties everywhere if you go looking for them. It seemed to everybody who didn’t see the game to be a straightforward win for Sevilla. It wasn’t. VAR changed the result which looked to be on a knife edge. Its introduction is causing widespread debate as people say it was needed to ease pressure on the match officials. However others (me included) say it takes away the soul of the game. Let’s get back to human error and let’s get back to discussing the referee’s dubious parentage over a few beers after the game!
News came out of “Goal Japan” yesterday that Takefusa Kubo is set to replace Martin Odegaard at Real Sociedad next season. Still early days before any of this comes to fruition. Also Mallorca are looking at Sevilla’s Brazilian left back Arana who’s been out on loan at Italian side Atalanta.