Osasu Obayiuwana: Why progress should not hold football back

With the World Cup in Brazil being the first in which Goal Line Technology (GLT) is used, to ascertain whether a ball has crossed the line, its effectiveness – and using similar aids, to reduce other refereeing errors – will certainly be a regular talking point.

And not just amongst fans, as the animated conversation between Didier Deschamps and Luis Suarez, the managers of France and Honduras, over Les Bleus’ second goal, in their 3-0 win in Group E, clearly shows.

The trajectory of Karim Benzema’s shot, which hit the crossbar and dropped in front of the line, subsequently bouncing in the direction of goalkeeper Noel Valladares, who scooped it out of his net – after doing himself no favours by pushing it in – led to the interesting situation where GLT made rulings on two incidents, occurring within seconds of each other, from the same run of play.

That the first GLT display indicated that no goal had been scored, while the second did, created the ‘controversy’ that led to the remarks of Suarez.

“I wasn’t upset because the [second] goal was given, but because it wasn’t given in the first place.

“The second decision allowed the goal, the first one didn’t. If the machine says one thing first, and then another after, then what’s the truth?”

The truth, as was evident, was that GLT made the right calls for both incidents.

It might have been clearer if the GLT display had been made for just the second incident. But with two incidents, coming from the same course of play, within seconds, would it have been appropriate to have a GLT display on one and not the other?

It’s a situation clearly not foreseen by many, who assumed, wrongly, there would only be one incident, in the course of a single run of play, requiring the use of GLT, as was the case with the goal that never was at the 2010 finals in South Africa: Frank Lampard’s strike against Germany.

The interplay of technological aids and match situations requiring their use, even if it’s just to determine goals, cannot be restricted to a single scenario, when there could be two or more incidents in the same run of play, over the span of a few seconds, requiring their use.

As a long-term proponent of the use of technological aids to reduce the situation in which referees make wrong calls for major decisions – as long as they can be used in a matter of seconds – the opening match between hosts Brazil and Croatia and the subsequent group game between Cameroon and Mexico has only reinforced my views that it is simply a matter of time before video technology is used to verify two things: The validity of a penalty award and a goal disallowed for being offside.

Had Yuichi Nishimura, the Japanese referee that handled the opening match between Brazil and Croatia, the use of video technology, to ascertain that the ‘push’ on Fred, by Dejan Lovren, was deserving of the penalty he awarded, wouldn’t that have spared him the embarrassment of not knowing something that billions of television viewers, with the aid of television replays, did – that it wasn’t a penalty?

Had Mexico not reached a well deserved 1-0 win over Cameroon, how would they have felt about the two goals Giovani dos Santos scored, which Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan wrongly disallowed for being offside?

Opponents of the use of technological aids, who insist their use will reduce the unpredictability that is part of football’s charm, often change their opinions when they happen to be at the receiving end of a wrong decision.

Whether the conservatives amongst the sports guardians like it or not, the use of electronic aids, to assist referees in making key decisions, will not end with their grudging acceptance of GLT.

The inevitability of further use, in a manner that acknowledges the era in which association football is now played, a far cry from its 19th century beginnings, is the challenge a revamped International Football Association Board (IFAB), as outlined during the FIFA congress in Sao Paolo, will have to deal with.

Traditions and values are a good thing and should be treasured. But so is the ability to embrace change when there is a definite need for it.

Osasu Obayiuwana, a lawyer and BBC broadcaster, as well as the Associate Editor of NewAfrican magazine, is one of the world’s leading journalists on African football. His regular commentary on the state of the African game can also be read at footballisafrica.com. Contact him at moc.l1716756693labto1716756693ofdlr1716756693owedi1716756693sni@a1716756693nawui1716756693yabo.1716756693usaso1716756693.

Osasu is also a member of FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force.