It was the 10th minute of a hotly-contested Merseyside derby, and the score was 1-0 to a Liverpool side with a point to prove. Fabinho brings down a dropping ball on the edge of the box. He loops it towards the oncoming Van Dijk at the far post. But Van Dijk barely gets the chance to look up, for he is violently clattered by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford who inexplicably charges feet-first instead of smothering it with his hands. It’s a clear red card. The medics rush on, Van Dijk goes off, the goal kick is then taken.
After the game, it is announced that Van Dijk will be out for 8 months (the rest of the season). Liverpool fans are left with 3 questions:
- How did the referee not send off Pickford?
- How did VAR not overturn the referee to send off Pickford?
- What is the purpose of VAR, and by extension football?
Van Dijk is to have surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament, and his absence will badly hamper Liverpool’s title defence. Any neutral can see they were already struggling defensively. Joe Gomez has not fully matured into a top-class defender, and it is unlikely the aging Joel Matip will ever be one.
Jordan Pickford, perhaps in recognising this, apologised to Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson after the game for the harm he caused – and yet still no retrospective action was taken against Pickford by the FA. Liverpool fans will have a right to feel like justice hasn’t been done. But there is no justice in this empty universe.
Jurgen Klopp chose not to focus on this incident in his post-match interview. Rather, stated that he ‘did not see it’, and that the game was ‘as good a performance away against Everton’ as he’d seen as Liverpool manager. There was nonetheless a noticeable agitation behind his eyes; perhaps he was contemplating the meaninglessness of football in a reality where our mortality is finite. ‘Would it not be better to turn to religion to reconcile our inevitable fate?’ his countenance seemed to ask.
After the game, ex-Liverpool defender Graham Souness claimed Van Dijk had been ‘assaulted’ by Pickford as he lamented the failures of VAR. There was general agreement in the studio. But after the cameras turned off, co-pundit Gary Neville could have said ‘VAR is pointless if you understand determinism. All events are inevitable, and VAR merely creates the illusion that we have some control over events’. Jamie Carragher, a possible purporter of Kantian free will, might have spat in his face over the comment. Robbie Savage, we can all agree, would have been baffled.
So, where does that leave Liverpool fans (as well as the desolate human race)? They are defenceless against both the wrath of an absent God as well as Aston Villa. For this Liverpool-supporting section of society, their futile distraction might cease to bring illusory joy to their meaningless existence – for they are weak from set pieces. As for the rest of the human race: continued indifference.
We live on a blighted apple.