Champions League refereeing: Sadio Mane’s handball that wasn’t, and why offside calls still take so long

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Matchday 6 of the UEFA Champions League passed without much controversy for the referee teams as they fulfilled their Champions League duties and the UEFA referee elite turned their attention to the World Cup. But there was one key decision that didn’t affect qualifying but continues to confuse the masses, and that’s understandable.

What is handball anyway?

In the eighth minute of Bayern’s match against Inter Milan, a shot was taken on goal with Bayern’s Sadio Mane standing about 10 feet in front of the kick. His hands went up and were in front of his chest, and he hit the ball. No handling was claimed on the pitch and VAR recommended a handling penalty and a yellow card for a shot on goal to the referee. To the surprise of commentators, experts and arbitrators, the arbitrator listened to the monitor for quite a long time and in the end did not accept the recommendation – the absence of a penalty was his final decision after considering the evidence.

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At a time when the law is in place, when the application of a handling violation is confusing to football experts and increasingly difficult to explain to football spectators and even younger referees, this is another layer of confusion.

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The arguments for handling are outside of the body and the hand to the ball, as Mane’s hand makes a sweeping motion, and compared to other penal handling offenses, this is not as severe. The argument for not processing is that it was a justified and natural response to facial defense as a “reflex action”. In support of the “reflex action” defense, this crowd points to the February 2022 IFAB Q&A that defends their position.

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No matter how you say referees must be consistent, and their consistency stems from the FIFA directives that “interpret” the IFAB Laws of the Game and “advise” referees how to apply them. If the officials collectively do not consistently enforce the law, it will legitimately confuse the rest of the football world.

Right now, how referees are being directed is the time and distance from play to the moment the ball hits the arm/hand. No just as dispositive as in the recent past. Instead, the focus was on whether the handling affected the play, which robbed the offensive player or the team in possession of the ball of an advantage.

You don’t see the words “impact” in the laws, but instead “unnatural”, “justified” and “consequence”, but when it comes to the training of judges and application, to fill in the gray area of ​​what these words mean, what is the place, where ‘hit’, ‘silhouette’, ‘out of body’, ‘barrier’ are used to guide judges to a consistent application whether that judge thinks it is justified or not.

I hate to say it, but at this point the handling of the insult in the way we are asked to use it becomes unrecognizable. Is there a need to amend the law itself? The law is general and broad in order to allow for interpretation, what needs to be adjusted are considerations of how judges are directed and how they are expected to apply it.

Two considerations that need to be re-introduced into the analysis in order to resolve disputes about “natural” vs. “unnatural” arguments and “justification”. it’s time and distance. Without these two critical considerations, the application of the handling law gave the defenders an unbalanced hint, resulting in penalties that were not to their liking.

But to be clear, the final decision in Mane’s handling should have been a penalty and a yellow card for a shot on goal. It always has been and always will be because of his arm going up and swinging towards the ball. “Reflex” for face protection has never been used in the professional field and even in youth competitions. It was clear from the IFAB Q&A in February that they should contact FIFA because opinions were divided. If the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, that’s a problem (yes, pun).

Learning to love SAOT

Another point to look out for during the UEFA Champions League break is how semi-automated offside technology (SAOT) is used in the FIFA World Cup compared to the UEFA Champions League.

The key difference is that FIFA will have more cameras to track players – “limb tracking technology” – and the ball will have a sensor inside that helps determine when the ball has been first hit, as it tracks the speed of the ball. Apart from these two points, SAOT should be used in the same way in both competitions.

The key word is “should”, but the instructions for using the system are given by two different governing bodies and individuals who sometimes have different views on the game, so it will be important to look out for any noticeable differences.

One of the major visible problems in the UEFA Champions League is the time it takes to determine a player’s position in the offside analysis. Liverpool The match against Napoli on Tuesday is a good example of significant delays. In the 53rd minute, Leo Skyri Ostigard’s goal was disqualified due to a VAR recommendation for an offside player who interfered with the game. The call was centered on the forward and penultimate defender position (significantly different from Harry Kane’s MD5 game where the ball was the focal point), and it took approximately two minutes for the recommendation to arrive.

SAOT has been praised as a solution to significant delays in offside decisions when the analysis was done on the offensive player’s position in relation to the penultimate defender, claiming it would cut the time from 2-3 minutes to 20-30 seconds. In addition, 3D graphics were included to help explain and communicate to spectators and teams the decision to overturn tough offside decisions.

If it is understood that time is of the utmost importance, SAOT in the Champions League showed some significant delays even with the system and the fact that 3D graphics must be created and not presented to the audience until 2-5 minutes. after the decision, or maybe not at all, because it was the end of the game (once again MD5 Kane is offside). Let’s hope that during the approximate three-month break in the Champions League, it will be possible to carry out a major cleanup in time. Let’s see if the World Cup will do better.


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