The 33rd team in action at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil took to the pitch on Friday in Rio de Janeiro. Representing 45 countries, the tournament’s 25 referee trios and eight support duos took part in a practical session at the Zico Football Academy (CFZ). Open to the media, the event formed part of a preparatory seminar that began on 1 June and concludes two days before the start of the tournament.
Afterwards the match officials had the opportunity to meet with Zico himself, posing for photos while bearing placards promoting the FIFA campaign #SayNoToRacism. Former Swiss referee Massimo Busacca, FIFA’s Head of Refereeing, spoke of the importance of the work being carried out to ensure the success of the officiating at the tournament. “I am very pleased with what we are achieving here,” said Busacca, who refereed at the last two FIFA World Cups. “This work is very important in ensuring that the referees make consistent decisions and are familiar with the situations that can arise in games. We want the refereeing at the World Cup to be of a very high standard. Brazil are the five-time world champions and the country is the home of football, and we are all delighted to be here taking part in this major event.”
Just as he did at last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, Zico put in an appearance at his academy to greet the referees and assistant referees. The former Brazil star, who played in the 1978, 1982 and 1986 world finals, said he was pleased that goal-line technology (GLT) was now being used to make life easier for match officials. “Anything that helps the right decisions to be reached has to be welcomed,” said Zico. “It ensures we don’t run the risk of a team preparing for four long years only to lose the title because we don’t have the technology to tell us whether a ball went in or not. I don’t think it’s fair on referees that they should be exposed to criticism on account of slow-motion replays or decisions taken in a split-second.”
English referee Howard Webb, who took charge of the South Africa 2010 Final, said he was delighted to meet Zico and to have the chance to practice with the spray that will be used to mark out the distance at which walls must be formed at free-kicks. “I’m still getting used to having a spray hanging from my waist the whole time,” he said. “It’s a vital tool for ensuring that the rule is observed and that the wall is 9.15 metres away from the spot where the free-kick is being taken. I’m extremely happy to be back here and to be taking part in preparations that are every bit as good as they were for the Confederations Cup. The World Cup is the pinnacle of a referee’s career.”
Brazil 2014 is the first World Cup in which referees will have GLT to support them. Most of the match officials are already familiar with the technology, which was used at last year’s Confederations Cup and at the 2012 and 2013 FIFA Club World Cups. GoalControl, a German company that employs 14 high-speed cameras positioned around the pitch as part of the system, is the tournament’s official GLT supplier. FIFA organises practical sessions before every competition in which GLT is used, the idea being to make sure that referees feel confident when it comes to working with the new technology. The Brazil 2014 session took place on Saturday 7 June at the Maracana.