It still looks like Pierluigi Collina can manage a World Cup final right away. The Italian with a stunning hairdo is now 62 years old, his appearance has hardly changed, he is still very thin, his eyes cannot bear any contradiction, and his voice is certainly intolerant. Colina is one of those people who have a natural authority by appearance, which made him, among other things, the best judge in the world at that time.
Now the head of what is hoped to be the best referees in the world, Collina’s title is “Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee” and as such he has overall responsibility for tournament referees. Before the World Cup, he would sit in a very large press conference room in a very air-conditioned building and explain what players, referees and spectators should pay attention to. Collina explains simple things, for example, that fouls that endanger players’ health should be punished more consistently with a red card.
It also prepares the crowd for the matches to be longer. Game management was asked to interpret the downtime more accurately. If three goals are scored in one half, Collina says, it wastes a lot of time to celebrate. No one should be surprised that the World Cup, even in supposedly normal matches, has more than nine minutes of stoppage time. In the Bundesliga, extra minutes are used sparingly, only in exceptional cases are there more than five minutes.
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But Collina also explains complex things, such as changing the interpretation of the offside rule when the ball comes from an opposing player. The referee must now explain whether this is happening in a “controlled” way. Collina offers examples that get increasingly murky, and finally admits that the rule may now have been worded more fairly in relation to football, but it hasn’t necessarily gotten easier on referees. “But we ask the referees to understand football,” Collina says.
Above all, FIFA introduces a new game, “Semi-Automatic Offside Technique”, which can be translated as “Semi-Automatic Offside Technique”. A system of a dozen cameras on the field records each player, and there’s a sensor in the ball and software – which Fifa calls “artificial intelligence” – that calculates the potential offside location from each game situation and sends a warning to the video referee.
“It should make the VAR easier to do,” Collina says. Until now, VAR had to check every possible offside themselves, which takes time and makes an already difficult job even more difficult. At least in FIFA’s demo videos, the system, which is reminiscent of tennis’ Hawkeye ball-recognition software, works flawlessly. It was tested in the Club World Cup, among others.
And there is another innovation in this World Cup: for the first time, six women are part of the refereeing team. Stephanie Frappart of France, considered the best referee in the world for several years, who officiated the 2019 World Cup Final and has been officiating men’s international soccer matches since 2019, was nominated. Salima Mukansanga (Rwanda) and Yoshimi Yamashita (Japan) were also included as referees, while Newsa Pack (Brazil), Karen Diaz Medina (Mexico) and Kathryn Nesbitt (USA) are nominated as assistants.
“Involving women is new and anything new is interesting,” Collina said when asked about it. However, there was no set quota, all judges regardless of gender were nominated on the basis of their performance, and performance decides other appointments. Daniel Seibert from Berlin is nominated for the DFB, Raphael Folten and Jan Seidl are his assistants, and Bastien Danckert and Marco Fritz serve as video judges. Italian Daniele Orsato will blow the whistle in the opening match.
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