Football: Fifa testing offside VAR at Arab Cup, technology tracks players' limbs

LAUSANNE (REUTERS) – World football’s governing body Fifa is testing its semi-automated offside technology at the ongoing Arab Cup, with chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina saying the Nov 30-Dec 18 competition represented its most important trial so far.

The technology is based on limb tracking and provides the video assistant referee (VAR) with information before the on-field official makes a final call.

“We’ll have a camera set-up installed under the roof of each stadium,” Fifa’s football technology and innovation director Johannes Holzmuller said in a statement on Monday (Nov 29).

“The limb-tracking data extracted from the video will be sent to the operations rooms and the calculated offside line and detected kick-point is provided to the replay operator in almost real time.

“The replay operator then has the opportunity to show it immediately to the VAR. At the Fifa Arab Cup the assistant VAR at a dedicated offside station can immediately validate and confirm the information.”

Fifa’s chief of global football development Arsene Wenger said in April that he hoped the organisation would be ready to implement the technology at next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

The game has seen several contentious offside calls since the introduction of the VAR, with growing concern about the time taken and the precision with which offsides are judged.

But Italian Collina, 61, widely considered to be the best referee of all time and who handled the 2002 World Cup final, is still a strong believer in technology.

He said: “Technology is very important and useful in both the pre-match preparation and the decision-making process during matches.

“In an offside incident, the decision is made after having analysed not only the players’ position but also their involvement in the move.

“Technology – today or tomorrow – can draw a line but the assessment of an interference with play or with an opponent remains in the referee’s hands.”

The Arab Cup kicked off on Tuesday in Qatar at six venues, which will also be used for the World Cup next year.

After a lavish opening ceremony at the 60,000-seater Al Bayt Stadium, the design of which was inspired from the traditional tents of the nomadic people of Qatar and the region, Bahrain started strong but Qatar fought back to win 1-0.

The hosts broke through in the 69th minute when Abulaziz Hatem scored to give the reigning Asian Cup champions the victory.

The United Arab Emirates defeated Syria 2-1 at Stadium 974 – a 40,000-capacity venue built from recycled shipping containers and modular steel.

Caio Canedo and Ali Saleh scored before Ward Al Salama responded with Syria’s consolation in the second half.

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