Robin van Persie's red card for Arsenal vs Barcelona 10 years is still mindblowing


There aren’t many football fans remaining who are big advocates of VAR.

Technology has been introduced to the beautiful game and, quite frankly, it brings more negatives than positives.

The fear of celebrating a goal in case it gets disallowed is a huge downside that comes with VAR.

However, in theory, there should never be an incorrect decision that could impact the outcome of a match ever again.

Every single goal scored from now on should be legal, every penalty award should be justified, every red card is ‘clear and obvious’ and every offside call should be accurate.

Of course, that’s not always the case.

But think of all the wrong decisions in years gone by that could have been corrected by VAR.

One of those is Robin van Persie’s red card for Arsenal against Barcelona in 2011, often considered the harshest sending off in history.


In a last-16 Champions League clash at the Camp Nou, Van Persie had scored a vital away goal to level the scores on the night at 1-1. The Gunners led 3-2 on aggregate.

Van Persie then went through again but sliced his right-footed shot wide. However, one second earlier, referee Massimo Busacca blew his whistle for offside. Understandably, the Dutchman didn’t hear the whistle inside a packed Camp Nou.

Inexplicably, the Swiss referee booked him for kicking the ball away, leaving Van Persie stunned. Ten years on and it remains one of the worst decisions we’ve ever seen.

Without their star man, Arsenal went on to lose the match 3-1, crashing out 4-3 on aggregate.

The post-match interviews were box-office as Van Persie and manager Arsene Wenger didn’t hold back.

“It had a big influence,” Van Persie told Geoff Shreeves in a post-match interview on Sky Sports.

“I think it was a total joke. How can I hear his whistle with 95,000 people jumping up? How can I hear it? Please explain that?

“I can’t understand the view from the ref. One second from his whistle to my shot is a joke. He has been bad all evening. He was against us. I don’t know why he was here tonight, it’s a joke.

“We feel betrayed, almost. We tried really hard. When it was 1-1 it was all to play for. But, in my opinion, the ref killed the game.”


Arsene Wenger added: “We would have won that game.

“It’s not a surprise the referee didn’t book a single Barcelona player. I just spoke to [the] Uefa people. They are shocked as well. He killed a promising, fantastic football match.

What for? If it’s a bad tackle it’s a second bookable offence but the way he did it it’s embarrassing, if you love the game. If you have played football at a certain level you cannot understand that decision. It’s impossible.”


It would be interesting to see what VAR would have done.

Would they have slowed down the incident and worked out how many seconds between the referee’s whistle and Van Persie kicking the ball? Whatever approach they would have taken, we’re pretty certain the second yellow card would have been overturned.

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