BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
For the first time, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is being used at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. The application began at the quarterfinals stage.
Incidentally, all the four matches played had incidents that called for reviews by VAR. Sadly, contrary to the principle behind its introduction, the VAR, as being applied at the Africa Cup of Nations, negates the rights of the referee as final arbiter.
A case in point is the application of VAR in deciding the goal scored by South Africa in Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations’ quarter final duel. The Moroccan referee, Rédouane Jiyed disallowed the goal, more so when an assistant referee had raised flag for offside position of Bongani Zungu, the scorer.
But at the prompting of VAR, the referee held on for some minutes and later awarded the goal. Unlike it is done in FIFA matches, he did not review the incident by himself at the VAR monitor, he relied solely on the audio information transmitted to him from the VAR.
That was also what happened in other instances of the competition when VAR had to be applied.
FIFA at the end of Russia 2018 released two video clips on the application of VAR which was used at the competition with minimal compliant.
First point to be noted is that VAR only assists the referee to clear human errors such as mistaken identity in issuance of cards, possible penalty kicks, verification of goals where there are doubts and also verification of possible penalty kicks.
According to FIFA, there is a three-process application of VAR. First an incident occurred, such as the goal scored by South Africa. The referee gets a review advice from VAR operators. Then a decision or action is taken.
FIFA further revealed that there are two options for the referee. First, he can accept the VAR information. Secondly, he goes to the monitor to visually review the information and then take a decision.
Danny Makklie, the head of VAR at the World Cup in Russia explained that there are four VAR positions. The first is VAR team leader at the operation room.
He watches the match in the upper monitor at the operation room. If there is an incident, he communicates with the referee.
Also in the operation room is AVR 1 who informs the VAR head of an incident that might have escaped the leader. There is AVR2 who watches for offside positions and also looks out for potential offside situations.
He has a replay operator seated next to him to assist in review of situations. There is also AVR3 who is positioned between AVR 1 and AVR 2. He focuses on the TV programme feed and assists in evaluating incidents from the best possible replay angles.
It is doubtful, if these steps were taken in the VAR incidents so far at the Africa Cup of Nations. The referees merely take decisions from what they were told by VAR. The second step of going to the review monitors have been glaringly absent,
The application of VAR comes to fore if one considers the fact that the final match of the premier continental competition, the CAF Champions League is still embroiled in VAR controversy that has necessitated a replay.
It is not certain, if that replay will still hold after the Africa Cup of Champions.