“Lamparrrrrrddd!!!! Brilliant, it was in. That surely crossed the line, but it’s not been given”. The words of the commentator at the 2010 edition of the world cup in South Africa with England trailing 2-1 against Germany in the 38th minute of one of the last 16 games. Had the goal been allowed it would probably have been all squared by half time, scorer Frank Lampard was already jubilating as well as the English technical bench until it was waved off as no goal by the referee in a split second who allowed play continue. Lots of pundits argued after the game that the disallowed goal changed the face of the game and gunned down the spirit of the players.
Football is considered the best sport ever because of the level of micro spontaneous activities during play. Referee decisions, reactions of players and fans, celebrations, skills and goals. Mostly, decisions have gone a long way in determining the results of games both positively and negatively as we can see from the Lampard’s goal, however the call for technology to be involved in making decisions to curb or eliminate the over dependence on referees intuitions and instincts which sometimes can go all south.
After much agitation by football stakeholders the introduction of the goal line technology came to fruition and some leagues around the world are making use of it and enjoying the benefits. Unfortunately, this does not take away all the problems of decision making in the game, as we have seen many a times different scenarios of bad decision. Red cards to certain players due to mistaken identity, red cards to tackles that are not even worth a yellow card due to overreactions by players, and no cards to outrageous tackles, wrong offside calls, the list continues. The call for video technology in football has been a debate for a while now as other sports like rugby, hockey have adopted it and are reaping the benefits.
Last night’s friendly between France and Spain was the first time key decisions were made via VAR (Video Assistant Referee). France had opened the scoring through Griezmann but having celebrated the goal, done the hugs, and after the crowd had enjoyed what they thought was a goal, German referee Felix Zwayer disallowed it after consultation with a video assistant who was, reportedly, operating from a ‘surveillance truck’ like that of the FBI outside the stadium and in contact with the official via a headset. Later on, Gerard Deulofeu thought he’d scored but the linesman flagged up for offside. But wait, that decision was also overturned by the video assistant, and after another consultation – which lasted about a minute – the referee overturned the man on the sideline and awarded the goal, France 0-2 Spain and game on.
After the game, twitter managers and sports analysts were all over the place with different opinions, some were of the opinion that the stop in time to make these decisions was worth it while critics were of the opinion that it ruined the spontaneity of the game. The satisfying joy of scoring and celebrating is taken away. More like handing a child an ice cream cone, after a few licks you turn and kick it out of his hands.
After watching the full replay of the game and its highlights, it can be said both decisions via VAR was accurate and spot on. Didier Dechamps after the game went on to say “It is verified and it is fair, why not?. It changes our football a little. It is against us today, but if we have to go through this, it will be the same for everyone”.
“It is the evolution of football. That is how it will be”.
FIFA says that the introduction of VAR will be used for:
Goals – The role of VARs is to assist the referee to determine whether there was an infringement that means a goal should not be awarded. As the ball has crossed the line, play is interrupted so there is no direct impact on the game.
Penalty decisions – The role of the VAR is to ensure that no clearly wrong decisions are made in conjunction with the award or non-award of a penalty kick.
Red cards – The role of the VAR is to ensure that no clearly wrong decisions are made in conjunction with sending off or not sending off the player.
Mistaken identity – The referee cautions or sends off the wrong player, or is unsure which player should be sanctioned. The VARs will inform the referee so that the correct player can be disciplined.
Arguments are expected to stem out of this new development as people are scared of change sometimes. As reality beckons we ought to embrace it as football looks forward to the future of getting it spot on. Although this will depend much on the accuracy of these decisions.
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