VAR set to make debut in AFC Champions League quarter-final today

Fadhil Yunus

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will introduce the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for the first time in a club competition during a quarter-final of the AFC Champions League between Al Nassr and Al Ahli at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar today.

The level of Asian refereeing was further enhanced when the AFC Under-23 Championship in Thailand earlier this year became the first competition organised by the continental governing body to implement the VAR system across all of the 32 matches.

The AFC reached a milestone when the technology was first utilised during the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last year.

AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said, “Asian referees are already among the best in the world, but we must continue to set higher standards to ensure the AFC continues to be leaders in world refereeing.”

He added, “So much has gone into the successful and safe restart of the AFC Champions League in the West region and the introduction of the VAR system from the Quarter-final stage reinforces the AFC’s vision to provide the ultimate stage for our players, teams and match officials to showcase their undeniable talent.

File photo shows a referee watching VAR on a TV screen. PHOTO: AP

“The AFC has a proven track record in the implementation of the VAR system and I would like to thank FIFA, IFAB, our technology partners, our host association – the Qatar Football Association and all our stakeholders for ensuring our matches are delivered to the highest standards possible.”

As part of the AFC’s commitments to ensure Asia’s match officials are equipped with the latest in VAR developments, numerous seminars and courses have been conducted.

The first-ever online AFC VAR course was held last month, which saw the participation of 104 AFC elite match officials from 19 member associations.

Additionally, to further enhance the AFC’s VAR capabilities, a virtual AFC VAR Information Officer (VIO) Workshop was organised to ensure VIOs are well versed with the technical requirements of the VAR system.

According to the AFC, the VAR system is limited to four game-changing decisions or incidents- specifically – goal or no goal, penalty kicks, direct red cards and mistaken identity.

The other AFC quarter-final tie in the West Region sees Persepolis FC taking on Pakhtakor.

The winners of both quarter-final ties will return to action on Saturday in the last-four for a berth in the title showpiece.