History was made in African football on Saturday when the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was used on the continent for the time during a competitive match.
The implementation of the technology is another major success for African football’s new leader Ahmad Ahamd who is embarking on a massive transformation of the game on the continent.
The CAF Super Cup match between Moroccan side Wydad Athletic Club and TP Mazembe of DR Congo played in Casablanca was used for the maiden deployment of the innovative technology.
The CAF Super Cup is contested between the winners of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup.
The equipment is used to assist referees with key decisions, including the awarding of goals and penalties, red cards and offside.
The technology proved instantly beneficial as Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe reversed a penalty decision during the game after using the VAR in the match won 1-0 by the home side.
The Malagasy President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Ahamd has been embarking on some major reforms to make the game more attractive and appealing to the fans and sponsors.
As part of his vision to transform the game Ahmad had vowed to bring more transparency in refereeing and the implementation of the VAR technology was his idea to win the confidence of fans.
Fans and clubs in Africa have previously been angered by refereeing decisions with widespread suspicions on the continent that referees are bribed or influenced to force the outcome of matches.
However Ahmad’s conviction that the use of technology could minimize this and restore confidence in the game proved to be right with the reversal of the penalty decision and he has vowed to forge ahead.
“We are targeting the total transformation of African football and we won’t spare any effort to achieve that goal,” said Ahmad who took charge of CAF just under one year ago.
“Our continent can’t remain in its current state in the wake of innovations. As a result the Executive Committee and I are firmly committed to nurturing projects such as the VAR during CAF competitions.”
Football’s lawmakers are set to decide early next month whether to use VAR at the World Cup this summer in Russia.
The hugely successful implementation of the VAR is the latest reformative achievement of Ahmad who took charge of CAF nearly one year ago after defeating Issa Hayatou the long-standing leader of the continental body in an election.
This is the latest of the raft of massive changes being brought into force by the new CAF regime targeted at transforming the game on the continent.
The Ahmad-led administration has moved the Africa Cup of Nations from January/February to June/July to avoid the consistent struggle between European clubs and African countries over their release of players for the continent’s flagship football competition.
The decision will relieve African players -majority of who play in Europe – of the difficulty of leaving their clubs at the middle of the season to play at the Cup of Nations.
The move will also make Africa’s flagship competition more attractive to big television broadcasters in Europe, America and Asia as there would be no major football on television in the summer, bringing more revenue to the continent’s governing body.
For the first time, CAF is offering direct cash support in the form of a grant to the five African countries at the World Cup – a move meant to avoid perennial fights between players and their federations over their bonuses.
The cash boost will also give the sides the needed concentration to excel at the global competitions.
The inter-clubs competitions are facing a change in their calendar and its organisation as CAF seeks to improve its attractiveness.
Qualification for continental junior competitions in Africa have been regionalized to encourage regions that hitherto struggled to qualify – to gain qualification to help them improve and catch up on giants in the West African regions who have dominated junior competitions.
Under Ahmad, CAF has scrapped the system of host sides paying indemnities to referees.
Africa’s football governing body will now pay referees directly for their work, reducing the possibility of host sides influencing match officials under the guise of paying indemnities.
The verdict will also lift the financial burden on sides competing in CAF competitions as they must pay referees and supporting match officials these monies.
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