Ten World Cups ago, in 1986, that is when I watched the Global Football fiesta for the first time. While watching with my family we had no idea about the one month long World Cup Football. Accidentally we watched the World Cup inaugural ceremony and ended up in A football frenzy. As Indians, the only sport we watch with patriotism and passion is Cricket. With FIFA 2022 came the term SAOT.
How we watched the tournament in 1986
I was a child back then. By the time of the World Cup finals, as a family, we became huge fans of Diego Madonna and the Argentinean team . None of us had any technical knowledge about the team formation, the leg work, the attacking or defending style of the teams.
Our support was for a passionate, innocent looking player and his team, who won our hearts. All we knew was that when the player kicked the ball into the opponents net they scored a goal. Maradona was our hero leading his team to victory by creating more goals. Anyone who stopped him from maneuvering the ball to the net was our villain. In fact by the time of the finals there were many villains who heavily guarded Maradona’s free movement on the ground.
We viewed the matches with our heart and soul, fingers crossed and prayers on the lips. The emotional actions of the fans, the players, and the commentators determined our reaction to the game and the players.
Whenever the match took place we used to have animated discussions about everything appearing on the television screen. We wondered how football fans could afford to travel to a foreign country in order to cheer for their native team. And we appreciated their costumes exuding patriotic fervor for their national teams. Our team spirits were tuned by the cheering and chants of the supporters. We wondered at the bias and neutral action of the referees. And we talked at length about which players were rude,polite, humble, violent and gentle on the ground.
In those days Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology was not yet used in Football tournaments. Basically football is indigenous to every civilization. Rolling leaves in the shape of a ball and kicking it on vacant paddy fields and beaches was common in many countries.
How we watch the tournament in 2022
With the sophistication of human lifestyle football evolved upgrading with technology. In FIFA 2022 the ultra modern innovations find implementation in almost every detailing of the tournament. The solar energy cooling of all the 8 outdoor stadiums in Qatar, dis-mountable stadium 974 and match footballs with inbuilt sensors to send data regarding spatial positioning .
And to top it all, it is the SAOT, introduced to support the VAR that elevated FIFA, 2022 to a technology dominated sport. In other words war has begun between technology vs providence to decide the game.
VAR in 2016 went unnoticed until Semi-Automated Offside technology (SAOT) came into use in 2022. Within three minutes of the beginning of the inaugural match between Qatar and Ecuador, war had begun between man’s weakness and technology’s accuracy.
Though on-field referee’s judgments are final, he takes advice from VAR in case of doubts. The video assisted refers bases his decision on the data received from 12 cameras in the stadium and the inbuilt sensor of the ball. He provides his advise on goal or nor goal, penalty or not penalty, red card and mistaken identity.
The offside rule got a new lease of life
The offside rule, part of football rules since 1883, an unassuming underdog, became the star attraction this season. Star footballers Messy, Neymar and CR7’s goals declared offside, created doubts in the spectators whether all these years they scored legitimate goals. However they went on to deliver 3, 1 and 1 goals in the tournaments so far.
As the technological advances, the controversies regarding the fouls, offside, penalties and red card are increasing. In the 32 matches so far at FIFA 2022 at least 5 controversies erupted regarding VAR calls and SAOT. Japan’s goal at 51 minutes against Germany was granted because of SAOT analysis. From one camera angle the ball had not breached the touchline so the goal was legitimate.
Some of the goals were denied as ruled offside. Many goals declared offside, denying the chance of celebrating the ecstasy of scoring a magical goal. It has left the spectators wondering what is this Offside. To explain in simple words, there should always be one defender apart from the goal keeper when the ball is being passed to the player who is standing closer to the opponents goal post.
What is offside?
When the teammates plays the ball to the player close to the net there should be one more opponent near the goal line other than the goalkeeper. If the player’s head, body or feet is found to be closer to the goal line than of the second last opponents, then the goal will be declared offline. In many instances, VAR used SAOT prove goals as offside thus turning goal celebration into dismay and confusion. Thus a 130 year old offside rule, became the villian with the weapon called SAOT. And partnered with VAR to seal the fate of Giant teams and Celebrity players.
In FIFA 2022, with SAOT, controversies have only increased. The decisions of the referee, with insight from VAR supported by SOAT is being debated world over. After winning the ‘hand of God’ goal against Germany, Maradona said ‘“a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”. Maradona’s handling goal was granted because VAR’s did not exist. In 2022 the winner might say ‘“a little with me and a little with the help of technology.”