Every four years, the world reunites to watch the beautiful game of football unfold in all its glory in the form of the FIFA World Cup. While footballing legends like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and more have remained constant over the years, football as a sport has gone through multiple changes. We’ve seen new rules implemented, changes in the substitution procedure and a bunch of other things. While all this has happened, the world of football has adopted technology to help them provide more accurate results when it comes to decision-making in a game.
Back in 2004, when I was still a kid, one question always loomed in my mind — why doesn’t football use something similar to the ‘3rd Umpire’ system from Cricket? Cut forward to 2018, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was introduced and used in the FIFA World Cup held in Russia. This changed the game, for better or worse, is a decision we cannot make. The approach with these technological upgrades is to lower human errors and to provide the fans with a great experience — be it in the stadium or miles away in front of a television. For this to come into play, FIFA has instrumented some fantastic technology, including stadium cooling technology, sensors inside the official match ball, semi-automated offside calls, VAR, and more.
A recent couple of matches put all the aforementioned technologies to the test. In a game between Argentina and Saudi Arabia, the South American team had the ball in the net three times within the space of 13 minutes, but all of them were disallowed by VAR for offside. In another instance, Portugal’s match against Uruguay saw a bizarre incident in which Bruno Fernandes crossed the ball for Cristiano Ronaldo to head home — the goal was initially awarded to him. Still, after further investigation by Adidas, it turned out that Ronaldo did not touch the ball, so the goal was given to Bruno. Furthermore, there’s also an app for players to track their personal data, metrics, and more. Here’s a quick look at all the technology that drives the FIFA World Cup held in Qatar.
Cooling systems in the stadiums
Qatar is known for its extremely hot weather conditions. To tackle this, FIFA decided to hold the World Cup in November 2022 instead of June. Seven out of the eight stadiums in Qatar have installed advanced cooling systems to ensure the comfort of the fans inside the stadium.
This engineering marvel was made possible by a professor from Qatar University, Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, also known as Dr Cool. The stadiums have a box made out of plastic materials placed below the seats. This lets the air out and then also recycles it. This creates a cool bubble inside the stadium, near the spectators giving them a pleasant experience.
The Al-Rihla World Cup 2022 Ball
Adidas has created some iconic footballs for the World Cup, Jabulani comes to mind from the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa. While the Jabulani enters the history books for controversial reasons, the Al Rihla could enter the books because of its technological capabilities.
Fun Fact: The World Cup introduced a new ball this year with a sensor that collects spatial positioning data in real-time to make offside reviews more accurate.
But it needs to be charged before each match 🤣 pic.twitter.com/plbNz0VmSq
— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) November 30, 2022
The ball comes with an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor inside, which can help make more accurate decisions regarding offside calls. The sensor has been placed in the centre of the ball, and it is capable of sending necessary data to the control centre over 500 times per second.
This sensor helped FIFA award the goal to Bruno Fernandes instead of Cristiano Ronaldo, as mentioned before. Besides all this, a recent photo on Twitter showcased a bunch of balls being charged up before a match. Crazy. As per Adidas, the ball was tested in a couple of tournaments, including the FIFA Club World Cup in 2021.
Semi-automated offside technology and VAR
Offside calls are arguably the most difficult decision to make as there’s a lot of technicality behind it. However, these calls could be the difference between winning and losing, and there’s no room for error here. We have seen multiple mishaps in the past, and to tackle this, FIFA has installed over 12 cameras in all the stadiums in Qatar. This, along with the sensors placed inside the ball, should help the referees make quicker and more reliable decisions. The sensors will send across a notification to the VAR (video assistant referee) each time a player receives the ball in an illegal position. This has helped lower the time with offside calls massively.
FIFA+ and FIFA Player App
Along with all this technology, the footballing body has also kept in mind the wellness of the players with the help of an app. The FIFA Player app was developed in collaboration with FIFPRO and inputs from professional players. It’s the first time it’s been put into action in a tournament of this stature. This app lets the players have a detailed look into their performance data, analysis, and more. The information is captured by a team of highly trained FIFA football performance analysts and combined with tracking data. Besides this, the FIFA+ app is a great companion app for fans to stay updated on the group tables, scores, and match timings and engage in fantasy leagues.
Brooooo see technology 😻😻 pic.twitter.com/cb4faIlFhh
— Pumba✌🏾🇬🇭🇳🇬 🔫 (@innocenttt_k) December 1, 2022
The app also has an AR mode that let’s the audience at the stadium point the camera at the ground to get details about all the players on the pitch.
JioCinema in India
Reliance Jio in India has taken over streaming rights for the Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022. Initially, JioCinema servers faced many issues, and viewers went on to Twitter to express their anger and disappointment. Nevertheless, they have bounced back from early issues and are now providing smooth services. JioCinema has implemented an exciting feature called ‘Hype Mode’. This feature gives the viewer trivia and statistics regarding the two teams playing that particular match. It also gives you access to other camera angles, lineups, table updates, and more. Hype Mode can only be used in live matches. You can read our detailed piece on the same for more information.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 group stages are almost ending, and we are about to enter the knockout stages. Who are you putting your money on?