Mauricio Pochettino has warned that intense scrutiny of decisions in football could eventually “kill” the sport.
The Tottenham manager saw his side draw 2-2 at Liverpool on Sunday in a match riddled with contentious calls from referee Jon Moss.
Spurs were awarded two penalties which have been the source of fierce debate in the past two days, and Dele Alli was also booked for diving.
While Pochettino felt all three calls were correct, Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp was left fuming as his side were pegged back in stoppage time when Harry Kane converted – having missed the first time around.
The visitors’ performance and fightback at Anfield has subsequently been largely overlooked as the decisions of the officials are analysed with a fine-tooth comb, and Pochettino believes paying so much attention to such issues takes away from the essence of the game.
“Football is a creative sport, in which you need the talent, that grows in a very intelligent person, a very smart brain,” he said.
“And now we are so focused on minimal details. I don’t know. I am worried that in a few years, if the sport that we love now (will still be) a passionate sport that the people love to watch around the world.
“If we are not pushing that sport into a very rigid structured – with the VAR, with being focused too much on the small actions like this. To stop the game, to punish people that … 20 years ago, 30 years ago, it was like all congratulate the player when he tricks the referee or like this. If you remember the football 30 years ago.
“That is the football that I was in love with when I was a child.
Pochettino conceded Alli deserved his caution for diving but said such incidents should be moved on from rather than become major talking points.
“During different games, a lot of situations like this happen,” he said. “The problem now is that we are so sensitive about the situation. And then we are so focused on Dele Alli. But when you run, if you try to run on the pitch and sometimes, you go down and you say, ‘Oh, because I was focusing on the ball, I don’t know’.
“But in the end, it was clear. It was a yellow card, the referee was right and perfect. It was a yellow card and nothing else. It’s too much sometimes. There is such a focus on this type of situation. I think it’s a minimal issue.
“Football is about trying to trick your opponent. You know? Yes or no? Tactic – what does tactic mean?
“When you do some tactics it is to try to trick the opponent. You say, ‘Oh I play on the right but I’m going to finish on the left’. It’s a mix that I am worried that maybe we are going to kill the game. We love this game.”
Alli, as well as a host of Tottenham’s other big names, are expected to be rested for Wednesday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay against Newport with the small matter of a north London derby at home to Arsenal coming at the weekend.