Undoubtedly the most striking novelty at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is the spray can used by the referees (the illustrious goal line technology being a good second, but we’ve already known that for years from tennis, so @FIFA: there was no reason to show off like that). It’s not really completely new, as tests have been done with it before, but it’s new
in the sense that this is the first time the audience at large gets to see it. For those who have somehow managed not to watch any of the matches (inexplicably some TV-channels have been broadcasting other shows during the matches, and I’ve also heard rumours about a number of people not watching TV at all – but in all likelihood that’s one of those freak stories made up by National Equirer) and therefore have no idea what I’m talking about: when a team gets a free kick close to the goal of the other team, the referee uses a spray can to indicate where the ball should lie (with a semi-circle around the position of the ball) and what the closest position is for players of the defending team to stand while the free kick is being taken (a straight line behind which they have to line up). The problem this solution is supposed to solve is the fact that soccer players tend to ‘steal’ some distance (either the attacker moving the ball a bit closer to the goal or the defenders moving closer to the ball).
The magic aspect of this spray can is that the paint it produces disappears automatically after a minute or so. If at least I can describe the substance as paint. Having watched the spray can being used several times (I have the habit of heavily researching before publishing a blogpost) I rather tend to use the term foam instead – especially in the semi-circle around the ball, some of the content of the spray can tends to accumulate in considerable quantities. As close ups are often used in soccer coverage on TV, this actually looked quite silly in a number of cases. Shouldn’t FIFA have insisted on the referees practising a bit with the spray cans? There’s evidence that some referees did (how else would they know that the can needed shaking before the first use?) but others were quite clumsy with it, in at least one case even spraying foam/paint on the shoes of the lined up defending players. Part of that training should definitely also be leaning all about sense of proportion, as some referees don’t seem to realize that there’s really no use for a 4 meter line to be sprayed if only one player of the defending team is standing there. More silliness. (Which needn’t be a bad thing in general – to be covered in another blogpost.)
Anyway: it was an element that added to the overall entertainment level (also because the cans turned out to be not always firmly attached to the referee’s outfit – the funniest incident I witnessed was – in one of the 1/8 finals, if I’m not mistaken – the one where the referee noticed that the spray can was missing only seconds before he was going to need it and then had to hurry to the fourth official to collect a spare one), and I deeply respect the manufacturer’s courage to withstand the pressure from FIFA to pay whatever they proposed to have the brand name or company logo visible on the spray can (that’s at least how I interpret the fact that the cans are just solid black) … as you might have heard: money makes the world go round, especially at FIFA.
[Credits to Abram for suggesting the blogpost topic.]