Foot­ball plays catch-up with VAR

The in­tro­duc­tion of tech­nol­ogy has been hailed as a step in the right di­rec­tion, but there are still ques­tion marks, writes Ti­mothy Molobi

CityPress - - Sport -

‘Iwould rather have a 10-minute de­lay than a wrong de­ci­sion.” That is how Roger De Sá summed up the in­tro­duc­tion of video as­sis­tant ref­eree (VAR), which is being tried out at the Fifa Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup in Rus­sia. VAR has been re­ceived with mixed emo­tions. While some have her­alded it as long over­due, oth­ers feel it does not be­long in foot­ball.

Fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of goal-line tech­nol­ogy in 2012, VAR is the lat­est tech ad­di­tion to the beau­ti­ful game.

It was tested at the Club World Cup and the Fifa Un­der-20 World Cup in South Korea, and Fifa wants to fast-track the video re­views for next year’s World Cup.

In March, the In­ter­na­tional Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion board will make a de­ci­sion as to whether VAR will be used at the World Cup in Rus­sia.

De Sá says it is long over­due and the way to go.

If the sys­tem had been in­tro­duced more than 30 years ago, there would never have been a “hand of God” goal scored by Diego Maradona dur­ing the 1986 World Cup in Mex­ico, when Ar­gentina played against Eng­land.

Frank Lam­pard’s goal while play­ing for Eng­land against Germany dur­ing the 2010 World Cup here in South Africa would have stood, as the ball clearly crossed the goal-line.

Foot­ball has since evolved and is now fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of cricket, rugby and bas­ket­ball in re­view­ing con­tentious de­ci­sions.

Cricket in­tro­duced the de­ci­sion re­view sys­tem, rugby opted for video ref­er­ees and tennis ap­plies the Hawk-Eye sys­tem.

De Sá con­cedes that it will take some time for peo­ple to get used to VAR.

“It is the right thing to do. We are not used to it yet, but, in the long run, we will get to ap­pre­ci­ate it more as it will elim­i­nate mis­takes.”

He says players are al­ready re­strict­ing their protest as they know cor­rect de­ci­sions are made.

“I would rather have a 10-minute break than a wrong de­ci­sion. This is a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar game and can do with­out hu­man er­rors. This will take away wrong de­ci­sions and maybe even over-cel­e­bra­tions be­cause players will think twice,” De Sá says.

For­mer ref­eree Sylvester Nd­aba also be­lieves this is a good con­cept that should be em­braced.

“I will al­ways sup­port any­thing that will im­prove the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process by match of­fi­cials,” says Nd­aba.

“This will al­ways have an im­pact on the game be­cause foot­ball is the type of a game that thrives on emo­tions and re­view­ing de­ci­sions means ev­ery­thing is on hold un­til con­fir­ma­tion comes through.”

Nd­aba says it is im­por­tant to note that the sys­tem does not take away match of­fi­cials’ pow­ers but en­hances them.

“This sys­tem can only be used af­ter a de­ci­sion has been taken and only when there is a clear er­ror, mean­ing match of­fi­cials are still in charge of matches and have to make those de­ci­sions.” He says there is also a down­side to the sys­tem. “It is not quick enough, like goal-line tech­nol­ogy which is in­stant.

“It is still in an ex­per­i­men­tal stage and it is only used to make sure cor­rect de­ci­sions are taken in in­stances like penal­ties, goals or no goals, red card and mis­taken iden­tity – only if there is a clear er­ror of judge­ment that will change the out­come of the game.” Ser­ame Let­soaka be­lieves it is the way to go.

The for­mer Free State Stars coach says match of­fi­cials need an ex­tra pair of eyes to help them take cor­rect de­ci­sions. “The pace of the game has in­creased tremen­dously and we need to move with the times as well. In Europe they have in­tro­duced two ex­tra as­sis­tants to help the ref­eree and I’m def­i­nitely for that,” said Let­soaka.

Na­tional Un­der-23 coach Owen Da Gama says that foot­ball has evolved and needs tech­nol­ogy as well.

“I’m def­i­nitely for tech­nol­ogy. It has worked well in cricket and rugby, and it is about time foot­ball fol­lowed suit,” says Da Gama.

How­ever, he says the sys­tem takes away the hu­man el­e­ment in foot­ball.

“It is painful to lose be­cause a ref­eree is in­volved as there is no re­course for that. I’d rather lose when the other team is better than mine.”

For­mer Bafana Bafana men­tor Gor­don Ige­sund says many in­cor­rect de­ci­sions have cost clubs mil­lions in revenue and ti­tles.

Although he em­braces tech­nol­ogy, he is against the “stop and go” that comes with it.

“It can’t be called on ev­ery five min­utes, and it must only be used in very con­tentious cir­cum­stances,” he says.

He says he be­lieves that some­times match of­fi­cials make gen­uine mis­takes.

“We need to show re­spect for our match of­fi­cials be­cause, in foot­ball, some­times de­ci­sions go against you and some­times for you.”

PHOTO: DEAN MOUHTAROPOU­LOS / GETTY IMAGES

CON­FRONTA­TION New Zealand and Mex­ico players clash dur­ing the Fifa Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup in Rus­sia AN­OTHER LOOK re­views footage

PHOTO: ALEX GRIMM / GETTY IMAGES

Ref­eree Bakary Gas­sama

TECH­NOL­OGY Play is paused for the Video As­sis­tant Ref­eree to re­view a play

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