Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, Pierluigi Collina has dismissed insinuations that the newly introduced Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is tailored towards assisting big footballing nations in getting favourable results in matches.
Collina, a top referee during his active days addressed the press in the Russian capital, Moscow on Friday to review key or controversial refereeing decisions during the forty-eight group stage games already decided at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
Many African football fans were enraged about penalty decisions involving Nigeria and Morocco at the tournament, fuelling skepticisms that only the big nations enjoy the best of VAR decisions.
“The VAR does not know if there are big teams or small teams,” said Collina.
“VAR decisions have always gone through the same processes and they have ensured that the best results have been taken. Fourteen decisions have been changed by the VAR while three have been confirmed (so far).”
A total number of six penalties were awarded from handball incidents during the group stage of the ongoing tournament. However, some other incidents (three in all) such as Marcos Rojo’s against Nigeria were not given for “being indeliberate”. Collina shed more light on the handball incidents.
“In some incidents like handball, there could have been possible different opinions even with the VAR and we respect that,” Collina clarifies.
“If the ball is deliberately headed by a player and goes to meet the hand, this is not an offence, this is not a foul, this is not a handball.
“Or, if the ball hits the leg first because a player is making a challenge and the ball goes back to hit the hand of the player like in Argentina vs Iceland, this is not a punishable handball as well as in the one between Argentina and Nigeria.”
Why Assistant Referees raise flags late
It was observed in certain games (France vs Denmark and South Korea vs Germany for instance) that assistant referees only raised their flags late after the action had been terminated. This should ordinarily cast a doubt on the officials’ competence but Collina, named World Best Referee for five times between 1998 to 2003 justified their actions.
Making a reference to South Korea’s Son Heung-min’s goal against Germany on Wednesday, he explained that it was a deliberate effort by the assistant referee so that the team would not be denied success upon review of the incident.
“Do not blame the assistant referee if he does not raise the flag before the ball crosses the line, the referee would have blown the whistle before the ball crossed the line and this goal would not have been awarded,” explained the 58-year old.
Official complaint against VAR
Collina, famous in Nigeria for officiating the Olympics Gold Medal match between Nigeria and Argentina in 1996 as well as the 2002 FIFA World Cup final acknowledged that FIFA received an official complaint from the Brazil Football Federation (CBF) after the 1-1 draw against Switzerland.
Replays showed Steven Zuber shoved Brazil defender Miranda before heading home Shaqiri’s corner kick. The Italian also offers his clarification.
“We received a complaint from the CBF (over Switzerland’s goal).
“Football is a sport where contact doesn’t mean foul. Someone says: there is a contact, there is a foul. This is not so in football, maybe in a different sport but in football, there could be a contact without a foul. That was the explanation we gave and I believe everyone is fine,” submitted Collina.
Friday is being observed as rest day in the Mundial with action resuming on Saturday with round of sixteen games.
Fisayo Dairo reporting from Moscow