In the same week that a blatant handball helped Esperance of Tunisia knock Egypt’s Ahly out of the African Champions League, the inventor of Hawk-Eye has claimed he has goal-line technology that can make a goal-scoring decision within half a second. That’s half a second less than what the International Football Board (IFAB) had initially asked for when it started scouting companies to present it with systems that could confirm within one second whether or not a goal in football has been scored.
The IFAB, which determines the laws of football, looks like it is about to allow goal-line technology after FIFA boss Sepp Blatter all but conceded the time had come to use it. Blatter has for years been dead set against any sort of soccer gadgetry, arguing that such technology would take way the human element of the game, which includes gross refereeing mistakes, while also slowing down the pace of the game. But disallowed, legitimate goals by England and Mexico in the South Africa World Cup were the straw that broke Blatter’s back.
Enter Hawk-Eye, the camera monitoring system used in cricket, tennis and snooker. The company simulated 250 goal-line incidents and in them the referee was found to get 72% of decisions correct, the assistant referee was right in 76% of them, and the official behind the goal-line, a system being tested FIFA at present, was correct in 81%. Using multiple cameras to track the ball, video-framing and a signal being sent to the referee’s earpiece, Hawk-Eye, its owners claim, is 100% right.
German company Cairos has a rival system to Hawk-Eye which uses a chip inside the ball.
Should IFAB select Hawk-Eye or any other goal line technology, incidents such as Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’, Thierry Henry’s ‘Main de Dieu’, and Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany in this year’s World Cup could become things of the past.
Ahly would have loved goal-line technology to be in place when Nigerian-import Michael Eneramo stuck out his hand volleyball-style to put in what was clearly an intentional handball, the only goal of the game and which prevented Ahly from reaching the final of the continent’s most prestigious football club championship.
But while a hail of criticism has cascaded down upon referee Joseph Lamptey, the source of the hue and cry — Ahly supporters and Egypt’s sports critics — conveniently forgot to mention that in the first leg in Cairo, Ahly striker Mohamed Fadl scored a handball goal against Esperance which the referee allowed to stand. Nobody in the Ahly camp was complaining then.
Our local pundits and public explain that Fadl’s goal was unintentional while Eneramo’s was on purpose. The point is pointless. At the end of the day, the scorecard will not say who meant and who did not. It will not even mention hand goals. It will state the goals scored, who scored them and when. Nothing more.
Claims that Lamptey cost Ahly the chance to win $1.5m in prize money and a place in the end-of-year FIFA Club World Cup are misplaced. While the goal surely helped bring about Ahly’s downfall, other factors were at play: midfielder Mohamed Barakat’s red card which forced Ahly to play a man down for 65 minutes; the away goal scored by Esperance which proved costly; and the inexplicable, constant temper tantrums thrown by most of the Ahli squad in Rades, including the team’s veterans, when cooler, experienced heads should have prevailed.
Ahly’s stumble was not just against Esperance. Their entire African campaign this season has been off. Of the 12 games they played, Ahly lost five, all on the road, won five and tied twice. You cannot capture the tournament cup with that kind of record. Ahly have won the trophy a record six times but this year it rarely looked like No 7 was in the offing.
Because at least half the Egyptian squad comes from Ahly, Egypt goes the way of the club. And thus far, Egypt’s qualifying road to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations has been muddy — one solitary point from two games with four games left.
Egypt has won the cup a record seven times and the last three in succession. But another record looms; we are in danger of becoming the first defending nation to miss out on the following tournament.
What is frightening is that the one point was collected against Niger and Sierra Leone, the latter in Cairo, the two worst teams in the group. What follows is South Africa which gained hugely from its World Cup odyssey. With four points already under its belt, a South African win in Johannesburg could be insurmountable.
That game is scheduled for March next year, the same time the IFAB hopes to take a decision on goal-line technology. Wishing both of them the best.