FIFA gives VAR green light for World Cup, lifts 30-year Iraq ban

FIFA President Gianni Infantino. (AFP)
Updated 17 March 2018
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FIFA gives VAR green light for World Cup, lifts 30-year Iraq ban

BOGOTA: Video assistant referee technology (VAR) will make its debut at the World Cup in Russia this summer despite lingering opposition from within and outside football, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Friday.
“We are going to have in 2018, for the first time, a World Cup with VAR,” said Infantino after a meeting of the FIFA Council which, as expected, rubber-stamped the go-ahead given by the rule-making International Football Association Board (IFAB) in Zurich two weeks ago.
“This has been approved and we are really very happy with this decision.”
The World Cup, which takes place from June 14-July 15, will see VAR used to judge whether or not a goal has been scored, analyze whether a penalty should be awarded, decide on red cards and rectify if a player has been mistakenly sanctioned.
“What we want is to help and to give the referee the possibility to have extra help when he has to make important decisions, and in a World Cup we make very important decisions,” added Infantino.
“It cannot be possible that in 2018 everybody, in the stadium or at home, knows in a few seconds if the referee has made a mistake but not the referee himself — not because he doesn’t want to know about it but because we forbid him to know.
“The VAR is helping the referee and we are going to have a more transparent and fairer game, and that’s what we want.”
VAR has been trialled since 2016 by 20 federations, including the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A, with around 1,000 matches involved.
But it has not been universally welcomed with even UEFA, the European governing body, still to be convinced.
“Nobody knows exactly how VAR will work. There is already a lot of confusion,” said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who insists that VAR will not be used in next season’s Champions League.
“I am not at all against it but we must better explain when it will be used. We will see at the World Cup.”
One of the problems that dogs VAR, say its critics, is not the accuracy of its decisions but the time it takes to arrive at them.
It’s a drawback which has left many fans and purists frustrated that the flow of a game is interrupted.
“The intervention of VAR takes one minute on average in each game. If we lose a minute to correct mistakes, I think we have done something good,” said Infantino earlier this week on a visit to Lima.

However, Colombia coach Luis Fernando Suarez added in an interview with AFP: “It seems hurried to me. I think we should do other trials in other tournaments, analyze them well, and then put it in place.”
Suarez, who led Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and Honduras in 2014 in Brazil, remains a fan in general of the use of technology in football, which he has witnessed close up.
That came in the 2014 tournament when his Honduras team played France in Porto Alegre when the first goal decided through GLT (goal-line technology) was awarded to France.
“It’s good and necessary that there are changes but it’s essential that we don’t lose the essence of football,” added Suarez.
Meanwhile, FIFA said it was lifting the three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international football with the cities of Irbil, Basra and Karbala given the go-ahead to stage official matches.
“We are allowing international matches to be staged in the cities of Irbil, Basra and Karbala,” said Infantino
However, FIFA added that they cannot “yet” agree to a request from the Iraqi authorities to organize matches in the capital of Baghdad.
Iraq has not played full internationals on home turf since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The ban, covering all but domestic matches, stayed in place after the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
It was briefly lifted in 2012, but a power outage during an Iraq-Jordan match in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Irbil led FIFA to promptly reinstate it.
The FIFA Council also decided that Peru will host the 2019 Under-17 World Cup with Poland staging the Under-20 tournament.


Old Trafford holds no fears for Pep Guardiola and title-chasing Manchester City

Updated 23 April 2019
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Old Trafford holds no fears for Pep Guardiola and title-chasing Manchester City

  • Victory for City in the Premier League clash will keep the reigning champions on course for the title
  • City boast an impressive run of five wins and a draw in their last seven league visits to Old Trafford

MANCHESTER: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Old Trafford is no longer a “scary” place to visit ahead of Wednesday’s derby at the home of Manchester United.
Victory for City in the Premier League clash will keep the reigning champions on course to become the first team in English football history to win a treble of all three major domestic trophies in the same season.
City boast an impressive run of five wins and a draw in their last seven league visits to Old Trafford — a sequence that includes 6-1 and 3-0 victories.
Guardiola, however, refused to use that form guide as a reason for confidence, although he accepted a trip to Old Trafford was not as daunting as in previous years.
“I don’t make theories about what happened in the past for what is going to happen in the future,” Guardiola told reporters on Tuesday.
“Every game is completely different. The reason why is the fact this club in the last decade grew a lot and it is not scary to go there.
“Before it was maybe more difficult. The players Manchester City had in the last decade made this game a little bit more equal.”
Man City can move one point clear of title rivals Liverpool at the top of the table heading into their final three games of the season with victory over United.
This latest derby takes place against the backdrop of United’s woeful 4-0 loss away to Everton on Sunday, a lacklustre display that was roundly criticized.
Guardiola, however, did not expect the Goodison Park performance to have a major bearing on the derby.
“A little bit, yeah but even a good result, the confidence will be higher,” said Guardiola when asked if United’s defeat by Everton made his task harder.
“It is a derby and all the times we play against United, the derbies are always special games and the players do their best for the fans, the club.”
The Catalan boss added: “I saw the game, I imagine what will happen against us. The game against Everton is over.”
City will visit Old Trafford without inspirational playmaker Kevin De Bruyne who suffered a hamstring injury in the weekend win over Tottenham Hotspur that came just days after a dramatic Champions League semifinal loss to Spurs ended hopes of a quadruple.
It is the latest problem to hamper the Belgian in a campaign that has seen him plagued by knee trouble and Guardiola said De Bruyne would required a concerted training program ahead of next season.
“Muscular problems, he had two or three,” recalled Guardiola.
“In England you don’t have time to make a preparation.
“You play every three days that is not the best way. You have to make a good pre-season. Now he has to pay attention, the little details, see if he can play one or two more games this season and next season make a good pre-season.”
Meanwhile Guardiola denied claims that winger Riyad Mahrez — the club’s £60 million ($78 million, 69 million euros) record signing from Leicester last season — is unhappy at his lack of first-team opportunities and keen to move on from City.
“Riyad will be with us for the next season here and the next one and the next one,” he said.
“I don’t need to speak with him. He will be with us next season,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss added. “He is a player for us. We are delighted with him and the way he plays.
“He is happy we are here. Everyone knows the competition we have here. He came last season to stay longer. It is not necessary to speak to him.”