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The buzz about VAR and Nigeria leaving the 2018 World Cup stage.

Over the week, Nigeria lost to Argentina in a match that ended 2 : 1 in favor of Argentina in the  world cup of 2018. The anticipation of the Nigerian team moving to the next stage was entirely dashed.

At this point, no permutation or combination of other teams loosing could see the Nigerian team move to the next stage.

Prior to the match, Nigerians were seen on social media giving all the necessary support to the team. People who could afford the means to travel made a quick trip regardless of their schedule.

Celebrities like Banky W and Juliet Ibrahim were seen to have landed in Russia to physically watch the match. Even the CEO of Nairabet Akin Alabi complained in a tweet of how the roaming charges of a mobile network prevented him from picking up calls in Russia. Funny videos of fans from Nigerians in Russia taunting their foreign counterparts were seen all over the internet.

The mystic pig that was imaginarily killed after the loss to Croatia and imaginarily resurrected after the win of the match between Iceland was finally imaginarily killed and buried after the match with Argentina.

The match didn’t go down well with a lot of people as it was said that the Nigerian side wasn’t given a fair opportunity especially when it was denied a “clear penalty” by the VAR.

In the past days VAR has been the center of discussion and a topic of debate among football fans and stake holders alike.

So what exactly is VAR?

VAR is an acronym that stands for Video Assistant Referee.

The video assistant referee (VAR) is a recent technology deployed to  review decisions made by the head referee with the use of video footage and a headset for communication.

In 2018, VARs were written into the Laws of the Game by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) following trials in a number of major competitions. Wikipedia

How does VAR work?

VAR is a team of three people who work together to review certain decisions made by the main referee by watching video replays of the relevant incidents.

The team is comprised of the video assistant referee himself (who will be a current or former referee), his assistant and a replay operator. They are situated in a video operation room which is essentially a bank of monitors offering different camera angles.  Goal.com

Jurisdiction of VAR

Generally, there are four types of decision that can be reviewed by VAR.

1. Goals and whether there was a violation during the buildup

2. Penalty decisions

3. Direct red card decisions (second yellow cards are not reviewable)

4. Mistaken identity in awarding a red or yellow card.

Criticisms

There’s been some criticisms about how effective VAR is, the most recent at the time of this report is found on the criticisms section of a VAR article on Wikipedia. “In the Group stage of 2018’s world cup between Nigeria and Argentina, VAR denied the Nigerian team a penalty shot when the referee, Cuneyt Cakir, consulted it for the verdict after the Argentinian player got hit by the ball with his hand in the penalty area. The referee acknowledged that the ball hit the Argentinian player’s hand, but did not know why it did not count as a penalty kick.”

Wikipedia cited this statement from an article on Goal.com  in which Nigerian midfielder Mikel Obi  was said to have told reporters about the discussion with referee Cuneyt Cakir. “Mikel, as captain of his country, led the discussion with referee Cuneyt Cakir and, despite appearing to have been informed that the ball had struck Rojo’s head first, the former Chelsea midfielder claims to have received no suitable explanation as to why a spot kick was not given.”

So far,  VAR has checked 335 incidents during the World Cup group stage, helping achieve a 99.3 percent rate of correct decisions. Still there’s been a call for the VAR to be tweaked after the world cup by Dermot Gallagher. See here

The deed is done and can’t be undone. Nigeria is out of the World cup and there are key lessons to take home. Hopefully we would do better in the next Fifa 2022 World Cup holding in Qatar.

Like every new technology deployed, it takes reviews and feedback from its users to make it work better.  Whether the VAR has come to stay can only be answered  by events unfolding in time.

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