Morocco Calls For Fairer Use of VAR in FIFA World Cup Appeal

Referee Irmatov Ravshan gives a yellow card to Morocco player Ahmed Tagnaouto during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group B match against Spain. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The Royal Moroccan Football Federation is not taking its knockout from the World Cup lightly. It has sent a letter of appeal to FIFA, citing what it believes were unfair calls during its games against Portugal and Spain, and advocating for fairer use of video replay technology.

In the letter that has been publicly published, Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) President Fouzi Lekjaa questioned a number of refereeing decisions (three in the game against Portugal and five during the Spain game) that he said directly hampered the team’s World Cup run.

Part of the complaint suggested that video assistant referees (VAR), which made their World Cup debut in an advisory capacity to assist head referees with close calls, were unfairly used. In the games against Portugal and Spain, for example, VAR had been used only to benefit Morocco’s rivals and was never used to assist the Moroccan national team, according to Lekjaa.

“We wish to express our indignation regarding the injustice perpetrated against our national team, namely the string of serious refereeing mistakes which caused its elimination at the group stage of the 2018 World Cup,” wrote Lekjaa, according to a translation of the letter posted by Fox Sports. “We believe without a shadow of doubt that the refereeing mistakes—especially those which occurred in the crucial games against Portugal and Spain—seriously hampered our team by denying it the chance to compete on an equal footing for qualification with the other teams in the group. The seriousness of the mistakes mentioned above is even more apparent when one considers the fact that in these two games (against Portugal and Spain), video technology was only used to benefit our rivals.”

Later in the letter, Lekjaa wrote that the FRMF was expressing its “deepest concerns” about refereeing-related “injustices,” which he said have had a negative impact on FIFA’s image and impeded its values.

SportTechie Takeaway

VAR (video replay) has been the source of much debate and discussion throughout this World Cup. In the week before the month-long tournament’s opening ceremony, FIFA’s director of refereeing, Massimo Busacca, attempted to temper expectations by warning that the system wouldn’t be perfect for this World Cup and would only be used in an advisory capacity on difficult calls.  

The VAR system has been used in a few European and Australian leagues over the past year and was approved for use at the World Cup this past March. Before its tournament debut, though, VAR had been facing coming-of-age problems, and, with that, scrutiny regarding whether it would be ready.

However, the system has been praised in some instances. Last week, VAR was used to reverse an on-field decision in a game between Brazil and Costa Rica. Brazil’s star forward had been initially awarded a penalty, but after review the referee determined that he had dived, and instead handed the Brazilian a yellow card.