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‘Justice – A metaphysical discourse’

While watch­ing the exciting football match between Chelsea and Liver­pool on Sunday, February 25, 2024, it occurred to me that football must seriously threaten the “faith” of those who depend on deities to arrange victories for them in their appearances on the field of play.

How can anyone with a fair mind “pray” to his deity to deliberately cause his oppo­nents to fail? After all, both sides do pay obeisance to their deities before a match. If they’re not “praying” when they link hands before the match, listening to a member of the team give a “pep” talk of sorts and then yelling in unison, then what are they doing? Do they ever pause to tell them­selves, “But the other side is also “praying”? Whom will “God” or the “gods” listen to (in case we have other “gods” whom we put before “God”?

Well, during the match, metaphysics reared its head big time before the whole world. Everyone who uses his or her mind, would have had to decide, one way or the other, whether the Liverpool player Virgil Van Dijk was re­ally “offside” when he headed the ball into the Chelsea goal in the 62nd minute.

I say HE was offside, because, of course, I was brought up to believe that it’s the player who “scores” a goal who is either side or OFF side. But it is apparent that the rule must have been changed and that now, ANY player of a side that scores can be determined to have been “offside” and thus get the goal nullified. Even if he’s not “interfering” with the play, so long as the VAR tells the referee that A PART of his body was closer to the goalmouth than that of any player from the opposing side (other than the goalkeeper) he is “offside” and the goal cannot stand.

I was extremely peeved when one of the best goals Ghana scored during the recent AFCON tournament in the Ivory Coast was ruled offside because although the scorer himself was very far away from the goalmouth, the goal was disallowed because two other members of the Ghanaian team were adjudged to be “offside”. A football expert I consulted gave the explanation that the Ghana players ruled offside could have been thought to have “obstructed” the view of the opposing goalkeeper. My view is that such a consideration is erroneous. A guy gets the ball and shoots or heads it home. So long as he didn’t have any “advantage” by being closer to the goalmouth than the op­posing defenders, it’s a clean goal. Ruling it offside makes a mockery of the basic princi­ple behind football, namely, that the game must be execut­ed with skill and finesse.

Both skill and finesse were exhibited by the Liverpool player, Van Dijk, in the first goal he scored. He reached for a high ball, surrounded by a lot of players, but he out-jumped all of them. He also managed to direct his head, while jumping, accurately to a corner of the goal which could not be reached by the Chelsea goalkeeper.

We all cheered, for it was the sort of spectacle that is welcomed by football fans when a match has been droning on, without a goal, for over an hour. And then came the VAR – the instru­ment of accuracy that has, unfortunately, become a millstone around the neck of the football world, because “technical” interpretations of concepts like “the offside rule”, are rendering some of the VAR decisions quite nonsensical.

Anyway, be that as it may, the over 80,000 spectators at Wembley must have blessed the “god of football” when Van Dijk scored a perfectly similar goal (but this time ad­judged to be “legal”) in “extra time” (in the 118th minute to be exact).

This time, there was no question of an offside and the incredibly effective Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp was able to collect one of the most prestigious trophies in the world, the English Football League Cup (known as the “Carabao Cup”). It is a well-deserved “crown” that he’s earned, from one of the most bitterly-contested com­petitions in the world.

Now, I ask you: if you were Virgil Van Dijk, and you happened to believe in a deity, would you say that the deity had been unkind to you (as regards the first header ruled offside) but had realised that a mistake had been made, and had then done a cartwheel and corrected the mistake?

Another question: if you were the Chelsea manager (or say, captain) would you say your deity had been “unfair” to you, by giving you the impression, to begin with, that the deity was on your “side”, and then changing “sides” at the most crucial period in the match?

As it is said in Twi – “na asem sebe!” (This is to be understood proverbially, not literally!)

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