MARRAKECH, Morocco — After introducing technology it hopes will do away with phantom goals at the World Cup, FIFA will try to prevent crafty defenders from creeping in on free kicks at next year’s tournament in Brazil.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Thursday that a vanishing spray currently being used at the Club World Cup to designate distances for free kicks will be used at next June’s tournament.
“We started using it in all competitions this year and at the World Cup we will definitely keep on the same path,” Blatter said Thursday. “For the discipline of the game, it’s good. I was skeptical at first, but after talking to referees who used this system, they were all happy with it.”
Referees have been spraying the water-based, shaving cream-like foam on fields in Morocco to ensure players lining up a defensive wall against a free kick respect the 10-yard distance to the spot of the infraction. A circle is sprayed at the kick spot to keep attackers from rolling the ball forward.
“The representative of Bayern Munich said that here they can take free kicks with the wall nine meters away, while at home it’s only five,” Blatter said. “It’s a novelty.”
Goal-line technology is being used in Morocco and will be in place for the World Cup.
When notified by The Associated Press that his spray product would be used in Brazil, developer Pablo Silva was overwhelmed over a product six years in the making.
“We’ve climbed a long, steep curve to get here,” Silva told the AP. “Economically, this will be very important for us, but what makes us most proud is that the product will be recognized at an international level. You can’t put a price on that.”
Silva said Argentina Football Federation president Julio Grondona was instrumental in introducing the spray — termed 9:15 for its distance in meters — into the country’s domestic leagues.
It made its debut in a September 2008 second-division match between Los Andes and Chacarita Jr. and eventually was introduced to other tiers.
Use in the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and Major League Soccer followed before the International Football Association Board authorized the spray. It was introduced by FIFA at its Under-20 World Cup this year.
The idea, an Argentina-Brazil collaboration, came to Silva while playing soccer.
“We were losing 1-0 and had a free kick, and as I stood over it I knew I could make this left-footed shot and even the game. But when I finally took my shot, the ball struck the defender in the stomach as he was just 3 meters away,” Silva said. “I was in a rage, and I ran straight to the referee, who would eventually show me a red card for protesting. And that’s when it came to me.”
Referees have approved of the spray, according to Silva. He repeatedly holds workshops to educate them on how to apply the lines and spots correctly. It works on all surfaces, and he is developing an orange color for use on snow.
If you hold it too high, the line is too thin and disappears quickly, and if you hold it too close, it’s too thick. So you have to delicately draw with it,” Silva said. “It’s not harmful to the players, the field or the ozone.”
While Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola was happy with the water-based spray, which disappears from any surface within minutes, former Italian national team coach Marcelo Lippi was wary about its influence on referees.
“It’s an intelligent thing. It can be useful only at the point where the referees actually measures the distance between the attackers and the line,” Lippi said. “Twice I saw a 15-meter difference, which is way too much.”
Silva intends to have a pin at hand when the spray is used at World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12.
“Just to make sure I’m not dreaming,” he said.
Photo via Twitter/@guardian_sport