Technology and football

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ROMY P. MARIÑAS

It seems that technology has finally caught up with football after millennia of being played as eriskyros in Ancient Greece and later in Ancient Rome as harpastum.

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The ongoing 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, a curtain-raiser to the 2018 World Cup, is employing video assistant referees as the final arbiter on whether a goal is legitimately scored.

At this year’s Cup, these referees work hunched over computer screens, unseen by football fans at the stadiums where the event featuring intercontinental champions is played in six venues in the Russian Federation.

These video assistant referees, for example, ruled that a shot by Portuguese star Nani was offside, an apparent goal that could have won the match for the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal (this game against Mexico in early group play eventually ended in a 2-2 draw).

“The law states that a player is in an offside position, when he receives the ball [that]is played by a teammate, [who is]actively involved in the play. A player is in an offside position if any of [his]body parts with which they can touch the ball during any other part of the play is in the opponents’ half of the \o “Association football pitch” pitch and closer to the opponents’ \o “Goal line (association football)” goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last opponent [usually, but not necessarily always, the last defensive player in front of the goalkeeper]. Being in an offside position is not an offense in itself; at the moment the ball touches, or is played by, the player’s team, the player must also be ‘actively involved in the play’ in the opinion of the referee, in order for an offense to occur. When the offside offense occurs, the referee stops play and awards an \o “Indirect free kick” indirect free kick to the defending team from the position of the offending player.”

Those seen by football fans in Russia and elsewhere where their expertise is valued are assistant referees who watched the lines (but they are not “linesmen”).

Why get the services of video assistant referees in the first place?

Where football is played is a huge pitch, making it almost impossible for the referee and the assistant referees (there are two) to see everything, including players that elbow, push, shove or otherwise impede movements of members of each other’s team.

If he saw them, he could be calling a foul or showing errant players a yellow card or, worse, a red one.

But the referee usually does not, and, thus, the need, in this corner’s opinion, for video assistant referees.

A third party is also hired for basketball, volleyball and tennis tournaments but where these sports are played are dwarfed by the size of world-standard football fields.

Tennis, for another example, makes us of the Hawkeye, which replays calls made by the referee as “challenged” by players.

If a player “challenges” wrong, he loses one of the three “challenges” he is allowed to make in a set.

Football making use of video assistant referees before could have altered the balance of power in the world’s beautiful game.

Not so much for tennis and the other disciplines that tap third parties.

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