World Cup ambush technology has been hotly debated since debuting at UCL

The new ‘semi-automated ambush technology’ to be used at the 2022 World Cup made its Champions League debut this week, and guess what, controversies and existential questions about humanity’s diminishing agency at its own game – hands down to the robots! — reigns supreme.

The main point of contention came when Bayer Leverkusen decided they had grabbed a precious equalizer away to Club Brugge only for VAR, with the new offside technology interfering.

First, it’s amazing how many people are commenting on this situation without even getting the basic facts right. Turns out no one really watched Club Brugge vs. Bayer Leverkusen. Shocking.

Callum Hudson-Odoi’s cross was flicked into the box and Patrick Schick – from a sideline position – appeared to get the final touch with a header before the ball slotted into the net. However, replays show that Schick didn’t get the final touch and that in fact Jonathan Tah probably got the final look. This is where the semi-automated ambush technology comes into play: Tah was ambushed, with the smallest part, when the initial cross was played.

No technology (probably): “That was a hell of a lot. Goal for Schick.’

With technology: “Chic?! Stupid man, Tah not only touched him, he was ambushed. I’m all seeing.”

Basically, if nothing else, the semi-automated technology did the job too well. It’s kind of like the Uncanny Valley theory: These autonomous artificial agents start to disgust us with their behavior because it’s not like what we expect.

We faced a problem of what we are looking for from this game. That, essentially, this kind of situation of insanely thin margins should see the application of common sense as “tie goes to the striker”. It’s the game we all grew up with and fell in love with, and it’s the game (attacking football) we all want to see (unless our country suffers the injustice).

This feeling brings us back to the application of “thick” lines in the Premier League, which frees strikers from ambushes in the most infinitesimal situations.

“I want them really thick and juicy.” -Sir Mix-a-Lot

However, allowing for this tolerance still introduces extreme ambiguity into a very literal rule. Where do we place the advantage of an attacking player and why? The answer, whatever it is, is arbitrary and wildly open to debate.

“Today, if technology allows us to see something, we cannot ignore it,” said legendary referee Pierluigi Collina. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 2cm or 20cm, there’s no small ambush and big ambush. If the ball is 0.5 cm above the line, it is a goal. There are no small or big goals.”

Going back to Nico Kantor’s tweet, it’s interesting to dig into what we really mean by “they’re ruining football” – a righteous sentiment we all love.

“Imagine that happening at the World Cup final,” he said.

Imagine that happening.

Offside goal by Carlos Tevez Mexico

Argentina’s opener against Mexico in the round of 16 in 2010.

Or that’s what happens.

Italy's offside goal against South Korea

Canceled Italy’s winner against South Korea in 2002.

Or that’s what happens.

worst ambush call ever

Italy had a goal disallowed against England during the 1990 3rd place match.

All these things happened during world championships. No one wants to see calls like that in the new space age Artemis I. So we went through this odyssey from line drawing to semi-automatic ambush technology, and make no mistake, it was a ride.

The people at FIFA have gone through an intensive three-year period working with adidas, various partners, technology providers and the Innovation Excellence Task Force to create technology that embeds a sensor in the middle of the ball, sending data 500 times a second to determine the exact point of contact, along with 12 dedicated ball-tracking cameras and 29 different data points for each individual player, 50 times per second, which equates to the exact position of the players on the pitch, these data points pinpointing the positioning of limbs and limbs that are relevant to carrying out an ambush.

Is this really a blatant attack by “them” to destroy “our” game? It’s great to get likes and retweets, otherwise it’s such crap for dating. This is without a doubt the best possible and an absurd amount of effort to get the ambush right.

But understandably, many people don’t want “as much as possible.” It’s a catch-22 in many ways in terms of what we actually want to see, but it doesn’t seem like we’re going to get away with it without major changes to the Laws of the Game anyway.

We could also talk about scrapping all of that and giving every manager two challenges per game, but I don’t think the world is ready for that discussion.

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