Finally, football embraces new-age ways

Finally, football embraces  new-age ways

Cricket was, perhaps, a pioneer of sorts in using technology to assist umpires to arrive at correct decisions.

It was first used to decide run-outs and stumpings, introduced in the bilateral series between hosts South Africa and India in 1992, but gradually has been applied, and quite successfully in most cases, in virtually every-decision making process. Tennis, too, adopted it a few seasons ago but football, for all its riches and popularity, had been averse to embracing technology.

 It has even appeared rigid in the garb of sticking to tradition. But being the most popular sport means controversies aren’t too far away; the stakes involved are too high and the emotions run too deep to ignore. The denial of a legitimate goal by England’s Frank Lampard in the last World Cup against Germany was perhaps the final straw that FIFA needed to rethink its attitude towards using technology to assist match officials. As a result, for the first time, the World Cup in Brazil will witness Goal-line Technology (GLT) after the world governing body decided to appoint GoalControl GmbH as the official GLT provider for the quadrennial event.

GoalControl is equipped with 14 high-speed cameras located around the pitch, with seven cameras focusing on each goalmouth. The cameras capture up to 500 frames per second from multiple vantage points to track the continuous position of the ball within a centimeter or so. The ball’s position is continuously and automatically captured in 3D and the indication of whether a goal has been scored is immediately confirmed within one second to a watch worn by each of the match officials, the word GOAL appearing on the screen.

The system has thoroughly been tested by FIFA in differing weather conditions and challenges. GoalControl has installed the system at the 12 World Cup stadiums and has conducted about 2,400 tests in wind, in rain and with one or multiple cameras blocked by players or the goalkeeper and they are yet to have an incorrect decision. Just like in cricket, where the right to refer a decision rests with on-field umpires, the final call on using GLT lies with the referee. Given the stakes, however, it’s unlikely the system will be shunned.

In a way, this World Cup is going to set a new benchmark in use of technology. The sporting gear giant Adidas set the ball in motion about two months ago by putting HD cameras inside a high-tech match ball to get soccer fans excited ahead of the Brazil bash. The all-seeing Brazucam, a customised Adidas Brazuca World Cup ball, with six GoPro-style HD cameras inside could capture 360-degree views of the beautiful game.

High-definition technology has revolutionised the way television is watched and technology company Sony, which is supporting official Fifa broadcaster HBS, has installed more than 224 HD cameras which will capture more than 2,500 hours of sport during the tournament - more than ever before. 

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