VAR is intended to eliminate controversy over referee decisions, but the system has received its fair share of criticism.
Rabat – The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will use the video assistant referee (VAR) system from the quarter-finals onwards, according to the chairman of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) referees committee, Suleiman Hassan Waberi.
Waberi, while speaking on a visit to Djibouti with CAF President Ahmad Ahmad said the decision was made after consulting both FIFA and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
He added that African referees attended a recent VAR training camp in South Africa and are currently at another in Morocco. They will have a final training camp in Egypt before the 2019 AFCON kicks off June 21.
FIFA introduced VAR during the World Cup last year in Russia. Four video assistant referees were deployed for each match of the tournament.
VAR was first used in a CAF competition during the 2018 Total African Nations Championship (CHAN), which took place in Morocco from January 13 to February 4.
The VAR system is intended to eliminate controversy over referee decisions, but it has received its fair share of criticism. Football fans took to social media following the 2018 World Cup to argue that VAR was used more often when major teams stood to gain against smaller teams.
The Atlas Lions strongly protested their referees’ decision not to use VAR during their match against Portugal in the World Cup, claiming it was one of the main reasons they were eliminated.
Referees used VAR for the final five minutes of the Morocco-Spain match a week later but to Spain’s advantage. VAR proved that Spain’s Iago Aspas had not been offside, allowing the equalizing goal. However, referees did not use VAR to show several penalties by the Spanish team.
Atlas Lion Younes Belhanda denounced the system following the match, saying it was only used to the advantage of bigger teams. Morocco’s midfielder Youssef Naciri also decried VAR in an interview with beIN Sports, saying his team “had the right to be awarded three penalty kicks, but they refused to use the video technique. But when the other team asked for the VAR assistance, they responded to it.”
Mohamed Aboutrika, a sports analyst for beIN, also commented on the match: “The Moroccan national team was subjected to injustice by not resorting to VAR in their match against the Spanish team.”
“There is something that suggests that this is intentional,” he added. VAR “is useful only for major teams and it’s not fair.”
However, FIFA defended the VAR system in July, saying that the decisions made by the referees without VAR were only 95% correct in 335 analyzed incidents, compared to 99.3% correct with the use of VAR. They asserted this percentage is “very, very close” to perfection.
According to FIFA’s figures, VAR analyzed 335 incidents, including all goals, an average of 6.9 incidents analyzed per match. There were 17 official video assistance appeals to change a decision, leading to 14 changed decisions and 3 confirmed decisions, after examining VAR.
The 2019 AFCON will be held from June 21 to July 19 in Egypt.