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Controversial VAR debuts in AFCON

The VAR monitor that did not work at the CAF Champions League final in Tunisia two months ago, leading to the match being abandoned © AFP / FETHI BELAID

CAIRO, Egypt, Jul 9 – VAR, the video review system that sparked chaotic scenes at the CAF Champions League final two months ago, will make its Africa Cup of Nations debut on Wednesday for Benin’s last eight clash with Senegal in Egypt.

The technology is being used from the quarter-finals of Africa’s premier football competition, with officials hoping the drama during some previous VAR matches in the continent can be avoided.

“VAR requires not only equipment, but also expertise,” stressed CAF secretary general Moaz Hajji.

“Everything is ready for its implementation.”

The technology was supposed to be used in the second leg of the CAF Champions League final between Esperance Tunis and Wydad Casablanca in Tunisia, but malfunctioned before kick-off.

Wydad refused to continue playing when a disallowed equaliser could not be reviewed, despite the team having reportedly been told before the return match VAR would be unavailable.

After a 90-minute delay, an Esperance team leading 2-1 overall were awarded the match only for the organisers to later order a replay at a neutral ground.

No date or venue has been announced amid hints from both clubs they will take legal action over the decision.

In the first leg of the 2018 Champions League final between Cairo club Al Ahly and Esperance, the Algerian referee used VAR to award two hotly disputed goals.

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Replays suggested Walid Azaro dived to win a penalty and the Ahly forward later deliberately tore his shirt to gain another spot-kick.

Ahly won the match, but finished overall losers after a heavy second-leg defeat.

– Suspension dropped –

Eight weeks ago Egyptian referee Gehad Grisha was handed a six-month ban after making two VAR calls that angered Moroccan club Renaissance Berkane in the second-tier Confederation Cup final.

The suspension was dropped on appeal, allowing Grisha to be part of the referees’ panel for the Cup of Nations in his homeland.

Ghana captain Andre Ayew celebrates a goal before it was disallowed in an Africa Cup of Nations last-16 match against Tunisia © AFP / Giuseppe CACACE

Benin coach Michel Dussuyer favours VAR: “I hope it will work and that there will be no technical problems. The use is a plus for football because it corrects injustices.”

Senegal defender Salif Sane is “not a big fan of VAR, but we are going to play our football and show who Senegal are”.

VAR intervenes when a referee makes a clear and obvious error regarding a goal, a penalty, a straight red card or a mistaken identity.

Ghana wished the system had been used in a second round match against Tunisia this week that they lost on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Black Stars captain Andre Ayew had a goal disallowed because the referee said team-mate Thomas Partey had handled the ball when it had actually struck his chin.

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“We could have had a different result,” lamented Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah, “but VAR will help African football a lot.”


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