Club World Cup referee gives first mic’d up official VAR decision reasoning

The FIFA Club World Cup enjoyed a football first after the referee of a game between Al Ahly and Auckland City announced to the stadium the reason why he changed a decision via a VAR consultation.

Ahead of the latest edition of the tournament, FIFA announced that referees would be “mic’d up”. The microphone headsets would allow officials to explain to fans and viewers on TV their decision after a check with VAR.

Interestingly enough, it took just one match before the first use of this ground-breaking new measure.

During injury time, Auckland defender Adam Mitchell clattered an opponent right on the edge of his own box. Referee Ma Ning blew his whistle, then pointed to the spot for a penalty.

However, the Chinese official received a call from VAR to go and check his decision.

Upon review, the referee changed his call, instead awarding a free kick on the edge of the box. But prior to play re-starting, Ma Ning addressed the fans at home and in the stands via his mic.

The official explained that he had overturned his penalty decision to a foul outside the area. As a result, Mitchell also received his marching orders for denial of a goalscoring opportunity.

Despite the crowd noise making it difficult to hear the referee’s mic, the measure that’s on trial at the Club World Cup could improve transparency when it comes to VAR decisions.

This historic moment did not prove important in the context of the game, though.

Al Ahly progress in Club World Cup as VAR trial makes immediate impact

Al Ahly brushed aside 2022 OFC Champions League winners Auckland in their first-round match.

The Egyptian side managed to take the lead just before half-time. Hussein El Shahat’s low-driven effort just evaded the unsighted Conor Tracey in the Auckland net, giving Al Ahly a slender advantage.

But it did not take long for the CAF representative side to consolidate their lead. On 56 minutes, Mohamed Sherif broke in behind the opposition defence to slot home Al Ahly’s second. Percy Tau wrapped up an ultimately comfortable 3-0 win with a wonderful goal four minutes from time.

The victory means that Al Ahly progress to the second round of the Club World Cup, which is in Morocco this month. They qualified for their eighth appearance in the competition after taking the “host” slot.

This is because Moroccan club Wydad Casablanca already qualified for the Club World Cup by winning the 2021/22 CAF Champions League.

Both African teams will be in the second round, but not against each other. Instead, Al Ahly face MLS side Seattle Sounders, who earned their spot as CONCACAF Champions League holders. Meanwhile, Casablanca take on Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal.

Following this, Real Madrid and Flamengo get involved at the semi-final stage. Los Blancos face the victor of the Seattle game, playing their first 2022 Club World Cup match on 8 February.

Real will hope to be at the final on 11 February, where they will look to win a record-extending fifth title.

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