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Qatar World Cup surprises and new rules of the game

The highly respected retired FIFA referee Pierluini Collina, during a press conference.

This year’s FIFA World Cup tournament came with a lot of new things. Many people have wondered whether the rules of the game were changed. Has it been all about referees coming up with their decisions, or rules of the game have changed?

A lot of surprises have been seen in the officiation. For instance, you must have been stuck wondering why the total percentages of ball possessions by the two competing teams have been divided into three, instead of the traditional two – where each team is credited with the possession percentage out of how they faired in the field of play. For instance, traditionally, if Argentina were playing against Senegal, it’d be obvious that out of the total percentage of 100, each team will be awarded the percentage that is due to it. If Argentina gets 32% of the total possession percentage, Senegal would definitely take home the remaining 68%. That is what rules of the game dictated then.

In this world cup edition though, things have never been as predictable as we used to have them hitherto. FIFA had brought in what they call ‘IN CONTEST’ percentage’. This essentially means that other than the time that both sides would enjoy with the ball, the officiation will take into consideration another time when the ball was in a 50-50 position; when neither of the two competing sides would claim possession rights of the ball. That also includes a time when the ball is in the air, or outside the field of play.

Another important observation has been on the additional minutes. Generally, the number of added minutes (commonly reffed to as ‘injury time’) used to be determined by the time that the center referee had stopped the game incase there was an injured player on the pitch, or if there may have been instances of pitch inversions by fans. Those were some of the instances that defined rules of the game – and would automatically make the center referee to add more minutes, or less. In most cases, additional minutes would not exceed three (four or five added minutes would mean that there must have been a serious infringment which may have occasioned the abnormal addition).

In this year’s tournament though, the number of additional minutes have been in the region of 7-15. Percentage-wise, even the legendary Italian referee, Pierluini Collina, agreed that that is something that should be adopted, and should be infused to be among rules of the game in this World Cup edition…

According to Collina, what has informed the decision to add more minutes into the game is the number of substitutions made, the time spent by players during the celebrations of a goal, time taken by the center referee to check on the (VAR) Video Assistant Referee, and the time used by referees and players in the event of penalties. These are reasons that the officiation committees at this year’s World Cup included to be part of the rules of the game in order to help both teams enjoy a level play ground.

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