Finally: VAR to be Introduced into Nigeria When Super Eagles Clash with Sierra Leone

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After years of waiting, popular football technology, VAR (Video Assistant Referee) is finally set to be deployed in Nigeria for the very first time. This is set to happen on Friday when the country’s senior national team, the Super Eagles take on their Sierra-Leonean counterparts in an African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying match.

The Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium where the match will hold is reputed to be the only stadium in the entire country that boasts of the technology. It is not surprising then that it would have the honour of being the first stadium to host a match with VAR officiating.

VAR Image during testing at Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City

According to a sports journalists at the venue, while the technology has been tested and certified to be in order, it would still require the approval of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) the football governing body in Africa, to be used for the game.

VAR technology in football

The Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR), while a relatively recent development, has been around for a while, dating as far back as 2013. But it wasn’t officially approved for trials until 2016 when the International Football Association Board (IFAB) granted the Dutch Football League approval to commence full trial.

Other football games and indeed major competitions started to adopt the technology, majorly on a trial basis. This includes the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup, the 2017 season of America’s Major League Soccer (MLS) and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

The German Bundesliga became the first top-flight football league in Europe to adopt the technology for its 2017/2018 season. In March 2018, VAR was written into the football laws and the system would be employed at the FIFA World Cup later that year.

Controversies

Change has never been easy and football has never witnessed a bigger change than the VAR technology. From the onset, football analysts and fans alike have been torn between standing in support of the technology or against it.

While on one hand it does ensure fairness and pinpoint accuracy in football officiating, on the other hand, it appears to have slowed down the game quite considerably. Opponents of the technology also claim it has eliminated human factor and sometimes instincts, killed the tempo of the game, and to many, seems bent on turning the players to accuracy machines.

VAR was supposed to support football, to bring truth to the spectacle. This is England, the Premier League, the best competition in the world, with characteristics that if we change them we are killing the best league in the world.

Jose Mourinho

Worse still, many analysts say the new set of rules guiding VAR are quite unclear and sometimes unreal and the technology itself appears to have made officials not alive to their duties.

Controversial moment for VAR in the EPL

In recent times, there have been serious inconsistencies in its application especially in the English top flight. Fans and analysts alike have been left in shock after some atrocious officiating carried out despite VAR consultation. Thus, while the technology seems like a good thing, its application has largely been flawed.

See also: Nigerian Football and #VAR: Is our Football League Ready for Video Assistant Refereeing?

Africa in general and Nigeria, in particular, aren’t renowned for great officiating. While the VAR was successfully deployed at the last AFCON hosted in Egypt, it remains to be seen what the experience would be like when it is deployed for the first time in Nigeria.


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