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VAR first in FIFA Club World Cup

Al Ahly vs Auckland City kicked off the FIFA Club World Cup, with Chinese official Ma Ning involved in a refereeing first.

Al Ahly vs Auckland City kicked off the FIFA Club World Cup, with Chinese official Ma Ning involved in a refereeing first.
ANDREW BOYERSAction Images via Reuters

The FIFA Club World Cup is underway, with Egyptian side Al Ahly comfortably seeing off Auckland City of New Zealand to set up a second round clash against Seattle Sounders (they winner of which will face Real Madrid in the semi-finals). The clash will most likely be remembered for the Red Devils’ excellent performance in the second-half, in which they scored twice and could have had more, although it was also notable for a refereeing first with regard to VAR.

Before the tournament, FIFA announced that they would be trialling a system which would allow referees in the tournament to use microphones to communicate VAR decisions to fans in the stadium, as well as television audiences watching at home.

What did FIFA president Gianni Infantino say about the VAR trial?

FIFA president Gianni Infantino had the following to say about the scheme on his personal Instagram account:

“This is a very important message for all football fans who want to see even more clarity on refereeing decisions. Watch carefully the FIFA Club World Cup, which kicks off on 1 February in Morocco, as you will see an important change in how referees communicate VAR related decisions. For the first time, the referee will speak directly to fans in the stadium and TV audiences at home through their microphone, explaining why a decision has been made. This is part of a FIFA trial as we always want to improve VAR clarity and enhance education. We hope you will like it!”

Why did VAR get involved in Al Ahly vs Auckland City?

With Al Ahly 3-0 up and cruising in injury time, Auckland defender Adam Mitchell took down Taher Mohamed on the edge of the penalty, with Chinese referee Ma Ning initialy signalling for a penalty, before being called over to VAR. The foul clearly appeared to have taken place outside the penalty box but the match official deliberated over the footage for a long while, weighing up whether Mitchell should have been sent off.

In a VAR first, Ma Ning mic’d up and announced to the crowd that he had overturned his decision to award a penalty and had decided to show Mitchell a red card, which few could argue were the correct decisions. But were they, or those of you watching at home, able to hear it particularly well (”goalscoring opportunity” seemed to be the most audible part)? You can let us know…