It is the youngest, but it did not take long for it to carve out a place of choice in the debates. Three minutes of play and a handful of seconds had barely passed in the first game of the 2022 World Cup, when the semi-automatic offside burst into the landscape. Following a hazardous exit from the Qatari goalkeeper on an opposing free kick, the ball reaches Enner Valencia, who rises between two defenders, and propels the ball into the net. The Ecuadorian captain is congratulated by his partners: he has just scored the first goal of the World Cup. After several minutes of hesitation, the referee canceled the goal – to the delight of a still crowded stadium. Semi-automatic offside detection has just been introduced at the World Cup.
“This new tool will especially be useful in very tight situations, limitspredicted Clément Turpin, one of the French referees officiating at the World Cup, interviewed before the tournament. Sometimes it was difficult to know with the tools we had, now we have some that will make us more precise. » Without the latest innovation incorporated into refereeing by FIFA on the occasion of this World Cup, neither the Qatar-Ecuador referee, nor his assistants, nor even the video assistant referee (VAR) in his cabin would have detected that an offside tainted the first goal of the World Cup.
On the action that leads to the goal, Ecuadorian striker Michael Estrada finds himself half a leg in front of the penultimate defender when a partner passes the ball to him. Offside, therefore. But the spectators in the Al-Bayt stadium in Al-Khor, like the television viewers, had to wait before seeing the reasons for the cancellation appear on the screen, reconstituted in 3D; the video referee having to make sure – in a jumble of arms, legs and heads – that the setter had indeed touched the ball.
“Semi-Automated Offside Technology” (SAOT). According to its detractors, this latest addition to the tech paraphernalia “augmenting” arbitrage bodes well for the uprising of the machines. For the International Football Federation (FIFA), this is “enable faster and more accurate decisions”, and reduce controversy. Four years after the incorporation of video-assisted refereeing, FIFA continues its growing use of technology in refereeing.
“Everything will be managed by a computer”
And this time, the idea is to push the limits of the human eye. To do this, twelve cameras installed under the roof of the stadiums permanently crisscross the pitch, and check the position of each player (dissected into 29 different body points) fifty times per second. As a corollary to this installation, the official competition ball is equipped with an ultra-sensitive sensor – a caress triggers it – sending data to the computer 500 times per second. Because an offside depends on the precise moment when the ball is played, and this tool can determine it without margin of error.
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