Futureball

The use of technology on the football pitch elicits vociferous debate, now and always. Should we initiate goal-line replays, so referees can take a second look at events that are, in truth, almost impossible for the eye to capture? Or, assuring even greater certainty, should we deploy a robot army of sensors and laser-fields and microchips, eliminating the capacity for human error quicker than you can say Graham Poll?

Lampard’s ghost-goal against Germany did enough to swell public opinion in favour of increased technological assistance, but a voice still exists for those who see controversy and injustice (and, hopefully, eventual karmic retribution) as integral fluctuations in the grand drama of the Beautiful Game. The referee and his oft-hapless team of officials are essential to the whole damn spectacle, it is tragi-comically suggested.

It is what it is. We will enjoy the sport with equal passion, I think, whether a man or a machine is awarding that crucial penalty or brandishing that devastating red card: the fan is surprisingly adaptable to changes in the game. As such, recycling the old issues, the well-worn pros and cons of dragging football into the 21st century (at the risk of sacrificing its soul), seems redundant: what will be will be.

What we should praise and discuss and celebrate, though, is the improved technology in how we watch and experience a match itself: I’ve been brought to such rapture by the glorious, life-affirming introduction of 3-D football. Avatar is nothing compared to this. James Cameron shrinks next to the top production guy at Sky Sports. Sky has lit the path of innovation for decades: remember the dawn of the red-button? Highlights and statistics on demand represented a monumental advancement for the armchair supporter, even if little was affected on the pitch. One small step for players, one giant leap for fan-kind.

But back to the future: 3-D. The ball, unleashed from its screen-cage, zips around the pub as if you, you yourself, pint in hand, could rise towards a Giggs cross and meet it with the flying header or volley that you always know you’ll pull off. Repeat for 90 minutes, every week, ad infinitum. Isn’t that more important than the occasional blown decision about a fractional offside? Never, ever before has watching football divulged such intensely vicarious pleasures.