Ahead of his return to Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Belgium’s superstar striker Romelu Lukaku has called for social media chief executives and footballers to meet following the VAR controversy in the World Cup group stage in Russia.
Speaking to the Guardian, Lukaku condemned the way in which the VAR system was used during Belgium’s dramatic 3-2 defeat by Japan in the previous round.
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“Everybody talks about the controversy, the referee and the head of referees, but I’m always telling people: be proactive in the information, give us the benefit of the doubt, give us the benefit of the doubt. We’re out here to play football. Football is not a game of reviews and tribulations. It’s a game where you want to have fun, you want to win and you’re always trying to do it the right way.
“Unfortunately, the referees, the VARs … there’s no way that this was going to be settled in the game. And in the final 20-30 minutes, things were discussed as much as possible. If it was a final, you would talk about certain mistakes that weren’t made. No one is going to fix everything but it’s the same reason you talk about these mistakes: because we’re having fun. It was frustrating, I can’t lie. There was a lot of talk around what should have been overturned and the mistake that was made.
“After the game, I spoke to the coaches and we all agree that these decisions need to be fixed. I spoke to my girlfriend and she said the same thing. It was hard and I felt bad. If I can stop and share my opinion with the fans, it’s going to be great for the players to be out there, having fun, doing what we love doing. We’re enjoying it out there.
“For example, if Belgium go to the final of the Champions League. They can’t, yet, play because of suspensions. For all the players, we wouldn’t be out there in the Champions League because the game is different. This [VAR controversy] made me think about it. If I had to choose, it would be that everyone has a chance to be out there having fun.”
Despite losing the World Cup Group H match, Belgium qualified for the last 16 and face Brazil, who also progressed by winning their group, in St Petersburg on Saturday.
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Lukaku, who will be reunited with his former Chelsea team-mate Thibaut Courtois, said that the country deserved credit for the way they handled adversity in Russia.
“Obviously with our group, it was the same scenario as the European Championships, when we lost one game and we’re out,” he said. “But for us it’s a really good thing and even it would have been tough, it’s our pride and we don’t want to go out in the group stage. We wanted to stay as high as possible and be as strong as possible and this is what we do. We just wanted to manage the group, remain as strong as possible and qualify and stay calm.
“It’s a special moment to have Chelsea or Manchester United here. We have goals and targets, we want to get to the top. I think we can do that here, at this level, although [against Japan] I didn’t score but I still felt I had a big influence on the game.”