Rule number 1 for infidels and referees: the truth floats | sports

Only two types of people are capable of denying the evidence a thousand times as long as life remains unchanged despite having screwed it up resoundingly: infidels and referees. The maxim for the first advises denying it to infinity whoever that fails. For the latter, the illusion of infallibility, reinforced today by the pseudoscience of VAR, still sustains the fragile magic of the game. If a braid blunders, the error cannot reveal in any case that he is human and a victim like any mortal of the failures that lie in wait for something as delicate as personal reputation. It works the same as the Holy Trinity, although in this case there are four, if we count the one who points out the changes. That is why what happened last Monday at the end of Milan-Spezia was so extraordinary.

Rookie Marco Serra, refereeing his ninth game in Serie A at the age of 39, ran towards the by-line and fouled Rebic without noticing that the law of advantage had allowed Rossoneri Junior Messias to score the goal he gave the victory over Milan in the 92nd minute. Goal badly annulled. The Milan players launched themselves at him like motorcycles. And the referee, who had realized the mistake, had no choice but to excuse himself in shame. The problem is that on the next play, at the limit of 96, Spezia scored and changed what would have been a Rossoneri victory for a defeat. Serra headed down the broken locker room tunnel and burst into tears when he reached her locker. The most surprising thing about the story is that the Milan players, led by Ibrahimovic, went to comfort him when they saw him collapse. Even if it would have cost them the game. “We all make mistakes,” they told him.

The story will remind some millennials of that dystopian moral of the robocop by Paul Verhoeven. A man who is capable of bleeding from the side, no matter how many technological accessories he carries on his back, he will always be more human dispensing justice than a robot. So that in front of the VAR, to those imaginary offside lines that nobody knows how the earpieces are drawn, there is the fragility in flesh and blood of Marco Serra, turned into that policeman named Alex Murphy who put in check the new security paradigm in Detroit. Milan coach Stefano Pioli came to say something like this after the match. “The referee apologized. We feel sorry for the person, he immediately realized his mistake and there is little to do. I’m sorry, but we lost all three points”. And the leadership of Serie A, which Milan disputes to the dog’s face with Inter.

The magnitude of the event, as always, transcends the anecdote. The Italian referees college, in an unusual gesture, has also apologized for that. Serra will spend a few weeks in the VAR room (purgatory converted into referee telework) and then return to Series B to atone for his sins. Born in 1982, the guy works in a finance company and had fantasized about being a footballer, like so many referees. “I dreamed for years to be a footballer. But with the passage of time the passion diminished more and more. And I left it. One day my uncle told me: ‘Why don’t you become a referee?’ I tried it and he was prettier than playing”. It may sound sad, but disenchantment sometimes emanates emotions as legitimate as those that make up passion.

The Serra case has been on the front page of all the Italian newspapers this week. And the question is always the same. Is it possible to rectify an arbitration error? Well yes. Gianluca Rocchi, the president of the Italian referees college, did so in a similar situation in which Thiago Motta (on the Spezia bench and then a Genoa player) scored 13 years ago. And it is also possible to apologize and accept mistakes without having to deny the evidence a thousand times. Unless, of course, the botch is made by a robot.

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