Handball rules leading to more criticism of VAR in Germany

FILE -- In this Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019 photo Schalke's Guido Burgstaller, right, complains to referee Marco Fritz during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Schalke 04 and Bayern Munich in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Newly implemented handball rules are stoking renewed criticism for the video assistant referee in the Bundesliga. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file)

BERLIN — Newly implemented handball rules in soccer were supposed to provide greater clarity for those playing or watching the game.

In Germany they are causing confusion and leading to renewed criticism of the increasingly unpopular video assistant referee.

Two decisions in Saturday's top game between Schalke and Bayern Munich, and others scattered among other Bundesliga games over the weekend, led players, fans, coaches — and even former referees — to question whether the changes are benefiting the game at all.

"How rules are changed again and again is making football worse," Werder Bremen striker Niclas Füllkrug said after he had a goal ruled out in his side's 3-2 loss at Hoffenheim on Saturday.

Füllkrug had thought he'd equalized but VAR intervened after the ball touched his arm.

"I don't understand it. But according to the rules it isn't a goal," Füllkrug said.

The new rule states that even an accidental handball by the attacking player will be penalized, leading to a sarcastic reaction from Füllkrug's teammate Kevin Möhwald.

"That's the new brilliant rule that we have. It's top!" Möhwald said.

Freiburg felt hard done by in a game at Paderborn when it wasn't awarded a penalty after Jerome Gondorf's free kick struck defending Paderborn captain Christian Strohdiek's arm.

"What upsets me is that there is a difference between handball by a forward and handball by a defender. That's causing discussions without end," former referee Thorsten Kinhöfer wrote in a column for the mass circulation "Bild am Sonntag" tabloid.

Schalke coach David Wagner was aggrieved not to get two penalties against Bayern.

"Honestly, I'm looking forward to an explanation," Wagner said.

Bayern defender Benjamin Pavard's arm blocked a header from Matija Nastasic, then Daniel Caligiuri's free kick was deflected out of play by Ivan Perisic's arm.

Referee Marco Fritz allowed play continue and did not review the scenes again. Fritz later said he did not receive a signal from video assistant Bastian Dankert in Cologne that there had been an error.

Lutz Michael Fröhlich, the German soccer federation's head of the referees, acknowledged that Fritz should have checked again.

"For the power of persuasion and the effect externally, it would probably have been best if he'd formed his own picture," Fröhlich told broadcaster Sport1.

Patience is running thin, with Borussia Moenchengladbach coach Marco Rose another to add his voice to the criticism.

"If you don't at least go out and look at it again, then I also don't understand the point of the video referee," Rose said.


After coming on as a substitute to resuscitate Borussia Dortmund in Cologne on Friday, Julian Brandt was in no mood for praise despite his his role in the 3-1 win.

"That's why we're sitting on the bench, so we can improve the side and freshen things up," Brandt said after an impressive 28 minutes.

Brandt, who joined in the offseason from Bayer Leverkusen for 25 million euros ($28 million), made an immediate impact as Dortmund recovered from a goal down. The 23-year-old Germany midfielder played a decisive role in both late goals and made his case for a starting role.

"I like to play in the center. But the most important thing is I want to play. And I want to win," said Brandt, who thought of teammate Mario Götze. "There are players who also have good names on their backs who didn't play at all today."


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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