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