Players criticise VAR at Club World Cup, but opinion split as FIFA say it was ‘seamless’

December 18 – Yet more pressure is growing on football’s lawmakers to delay the formal implementation of video technology following contentious decision-making  – this time at one of FIFA’s own competitions. 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino is keen for video assistant referees (VARs) to be approved by the International FA Board in March in time for the World Cup the following summer but this is becoming increasingly doubtful following the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi where no fewer than three goals were disallowed in the semi-final between Real Madrid and Al Jazira.

Headers from Real’s Karim Benzema and Casemiro were ruled out before the half hour. Then it was Al Jazira’s turn to be disappointed when Mbark Boussoufa’s strike was also annulled.

Real’s Croatian midfield star Luka Modric said of the VAR interventions: “In some aspects it helps, but it causes a lot of confusion.”

Modric’s teammate Gareth Bale added: “I don’t like it, to be honest. I think football is better without it. But, that’s just my opinion. Others make the decision, not me.”

Real coach Zinedine Zidane summed up the feelings of many about the rugby-style delays while decisions are reviewed. “The decision should be fast but three or four minutes I find it really strange. At the end of the day, we have to get the best out of technology and try to improve the negative parts of these systems.”

But while the players were of one opinion, FIFA, testing a new centralised VAR system for the first time, said on their website that “the technology worked seamlessly.”

“We are very happy with the use of VAR during this Club World Cup here in the UAE”, said FIFA’s Deputy Secretary General Zvonimir Boban after the final. “VAR has again performed an important role in ensuring a fair outcome in all eight games of our competition. The spirit of VAR is minimum interference for maximum benefit, which was further demonstrated during this tournament, and we have seen once again how video assistance has definitely helped referees to make the correct decisions.”

“Our refereeing department is doing a great job and it is clear that we are on the right track. I would like to stress that whoever is open to this hugely important step can only be positive and embrace the protection VAR provides for football.”

Boban, a former player, should perhaps open his own discussion to participating players and managers for their opinions.

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