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2018 World Cup: VAR takes centre stage

By: Daniel Ofosu Dwamena
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VAR has taken the center stage in correcting some mistakes and offences that could not be spotted by referees.
VAR has taken the center stage in correcting some mistakes and offences that could not be spotted by referees.

LATE goals, drama and unexpected results, huge upsets and tight matches have been the themes of Russia 2018 World Cup tournament so far. As a result, a number of records have tumbled down.

The 2018 World Cup has also seen the introduction of high level technology in assisting football officiating in its full glimpse.

The technology; Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR), a football assistant referee, which reviews decisions made by the head referee with the use of video footage, came into the football scene after the International Football Association Board wrote it into the Laws of the Game after it was tried and tested in a number of major competitions.

This technology has made remarkable difference since it was introduced in Russia to assist referees on key on-field incidences such as awarding goals, penalty decisions, card infringements and in cases of mistaken identity.

Although, there were fears that it would be an under-cooked technological development in Russia, it has worked well so far.

Facts and records about the 2018 World cup
In the 2014 World Cup, there were 13 penalty kicks recorded in all the matches. This record has been broken so early in the tournament only because of the introduction of the VAR.

 According to statistics gathered from the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), seven penalties have been awarded due to the VAR as at the end of the round of 16 stage.

The statistics also showed that a penalty was annulled using the same technology.

In total, 28 penalties have been awarded at the end of the stage. This constitutes 10 more than the previous record of 18 from the 1990, 1998 and 2002 editions of the World Cup.

With VAR taking the central stage in the tournament, the devilish brilliance of Suarez with marred performance of play-acting and cynical tactics to win a penalty was overruled in Uruguay’s last 16 clash against Portugal.

Many football analysts believe that if the technology had been introduced earlier, he would not have been able to deny Ghana a place in the 2010 semi-finals with a last-gasp handball on the line, let alone, taking a chunk out of Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder in Brazil 2014.

It will be interesting to see how many more penalties will be awarded and cancelled by the end of the tournament due to the introduction of the VAR technology.

Football fans have been criticising the antics of Suarez going down in matches.


Reactions
Mark Ogden, a football writer, has said that the VAR was here to stay because the vast majority of decisions have been corrected, such as the decision to award South Korea their crucial goal against Germany; perhaps the most significant.

He explained that before the VAR technology, that goal would have been wrongly ruled out, giving an advantage to Germany to ride their luck, qualified from the group and end up winning the World Cup again.

In an information gathering survey taken by the paper, many people similarly accepted the introduction of the technology into the tournament, stating that it was reshaping matches to ensure outmost fairness.

Mr Daniel Angoo, a student of the University of Ghana and a football lover, said the technology and some instances of spectacular free kicks had led to the spike of the 146 goals scored at the end of the round of 16 stage.

Effects of the VAR
Although there have been many strides by the technology, there is no doubt that the VAR has had an effect as well.

Aside from the importance of the VAR, some other fans are of the view that the technology has been delaying matches and setting the course for giving out many infringements in a match.

There were 13 penalties awarded during the whole of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, not including penalty shootouts, however, there have already been 28 awarded in Russia even though the tournament is still mid-way to the end.

Mr Ebenezer Hasford, another student from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and a football fan, noted that the technology had vastly increased the number of spot kicks because more infringements were being seen, evident from the 193 cards given at the end of the round of 16 stage of which 189 were yellow cards and four, red.

Lax referees
In furtherance, Mr Maclean Kwofi, a reporter with this newspaper, stated that some referees were not being definitive in making firm decision due to the availability of the VAR, especially, when referees had to pause matches and watch video footages to make a decision.

“Because the VAR is available, referees refuse to make a stance, so they pause a match, walk down to the screen and watch footages before they can decide on an infringement,” he said.

“For instance, Suarez’s play-acting was very clear. It is part of his usual antics to play-act in football matches to win an infringement. The referee needed not to watch any video before he could conclude that the man was just dramatising,” he added. — GB