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FIFA to use ‘semi-automatic offside’ at Qatar World Cup

Mbappé’s controversial position in the goal against Spain in the League of Nations final. / R. C.

The new technology is more precise and faster in decision-making than the current video arbitration system

Ignacio Only

New advance to modernize football, although as almost all its rules are interpretable, it will always remain a sport linked to controversy. FIFA has validated this Friday the semi-automatic offside technology for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, an a priori formula more precise and faster than the current video arbitration system (VAR) to determine the illegal positions of footballers.

Likewise, with the aim of allowing the public to better understand refereeing decisions on the fly, FIFA ensures that animations of the plays in three dimensions will be broadcast during the matches through the screens of the different Qatari stadiums.

The system, already tested quite successfully or at least without many buts in the 2021 Arab Cup and in the last Club World Cup won by Chelsea in the United Arab Emirates, allows the position of the players and the ball to be established at all times , facilitating the detection of offside, but without replacing the appreciation of the referees.

During the Qatari tournament, which will take place from November 21 to December 18, this SAOT technology will use twelve cameras located under the roof of the stadium and will control up to 29 data points of each player 50 times per second, as explained by FIFA in a statement. A sensor located inside the ball sends “a data packet up to 500 times per second” to the video room, allowing the moment when the ball is hit to be determined more precisely than the human eye could. .

“With data blending and artificial intelligence”, an alert will be sent to video referees whenever an attacker who is in an advanced position receives the ball at the time his teammate has passed him. Being a real-time process, in a matter of seconds the referee in the VOR room will manually verify the moment of the pass and the offside line, before informing the main referee, who will always have the final decision.

One more step that certain classics will consider a new setback, but that will in no case eliminate the mess about the controversial ‘offside’ rule. The validation of Kylian Mbappé’s controversial goal in October 2021, during France’s victory against Spain in the League of Nations final (2-1), illustrated better than any other action the impossibility of fully automating offside.

In that case, in addition to analyzing Mbappé’s position, it was necessary to determine if the Catalan central defender Eric García was able to intentionally put the ball back into play, as the referees determined to the outrage of Luis Enrique’s team, or if he only tried to clear and he did it unsuccessfully and totally involuntarily.

Mbappe’s goal

With this tool, FIFA hopes to put an end to those absurd cases in which the decision lasts for several minutes. They have been very frequent since the implementation of VAR, with the consequent loss of continuity in the game and clear damage to the team that tries to dominate and attack. You just have to remember the controversy that took place in the last Champions League final in Paris between Real Madrid and Liverpool, when the judges took around five minutes to decide the controversial annulment of a Karim Benzema goal.

“We know that it is not easy to be fast and precise when determining the exact position of the extremities of the protagonists of a play. That is why we are thinking of a technology that can make the most precise decisions as quickly as possible, ”explained Pierluigi Collina, FIFA refereeing director, on the occasion of a demonstration with international referees who traveled to Abu Dhabi.

Those responsible for the implementation of this new method intend to reassure the arbitration community, worried about the possibility that, as in many professions, technology could lead many braids to join the unemployment lists. For this reason, from FIFA they wanted to make it clear from the outset that it is a “valuable help” in very tight actions but not, as some critical sectors have come to say, of the ‘robot offside’. With Collina at the helm, the heads of world football insist that the referees and assistants will always remain ultimately responsible for decisions on the pitch.

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