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Blazing a Trail

Date: 
Fri, 31 Mar 2017

Blazing a Trail

December 14 2016 was a unique day in football history, though the average fan may not have been aware of it. That Wednesday evening, half an hour into the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final between Kashima Antlers of Japan and Colombia’s Atletico Nacional, video replay technology was used for the first time ever by a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to alert referee Viktor Kassai of a missed incident. After reviewing the incident on a pitch-side monitor, Kassai awarded the Japanese club a penalty.

The use of VARs is a new FIFA project that is still in the testing phase, with 12 countries including Australia, Germany and Italy participating in an ongoing two-year “live trial”. While Singapore is not participating in the test just yet, a Singaporean match official will have a first-hand taste of how exactly it works at the upcoming FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

Muhammad Taqi bin Jahari has been appointed as a VAR for the tournament, which will take place in South Korea from 20 May-11 June. It will be the 30-year-old’s second time officiating at the tournament, having been a fourth official in the 2015 edition held in New Zealand, and he is Southeast Asia’s only representative on the list of appointed officials.

The affable Taqi was understandably delighted with the appointment.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for me, because VARs are a new development. The FIFA Under-20 World Cup is only the second-ever FIFA tournament to feature VARs, with the Confederations Cup and the Under-17 World Cup next. If the tests are successful, VARs may be implemented at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, so I’m honoured to be playing a small role in these trials. I am grateful that the FAS has been very supportive, and has sent me on various courses and seminars for my development as a referee.”

FIFA’s Head of Refereeing Massimo Busacca, who has previously praised Singapore for producing top officials like Taqi and FIFA Women’s Referee Abirami Naidu, explained that while VARs will play an important role, the ultimate decision will always lie with the referee.

“The VAR system has been developed, just like goal-line technology, to provide additional support for the referee. We want the essential flow of the game to be maintained and, as always, the first and the final decisions lie with the referee,” said the Swiss official.

Agreeing, Taqi reiterated the point by explaining that the role of the VAR will be to assist the referee in critical, match-changing decisions – for example, if there is any doubt as to whether a goal has been scored, penalty decisions, direct red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

“The VARs will be in a video operations room where we can see the match from all the camera angles, so we can provide the information to the referee to correct clear mistakes, or alert them to situations they may have missed – such as off-the-ball incidents that take place far from the action,” added Taqi.

The 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup is the latest in a string of appointments to prestigious tournaments for Taqi, who remains in the running to be appointed to officiate at next year’s FIFA World Cup.

“The selection of match officials for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia will be based on the performance of the referees in the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA Under -17 World Cup. Taqi has been consistently officiating matches in the current FIFA World Cup qualifiers, AFC Champions League and other international matches, and is on the right track for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. We are proud of him, and will continue to provide him all the support he needs as he chases his goal of officiating at the World Cup,” affirmed K. Visva Nathan, FAS Head of Referees.


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