The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) made its debut in a domestic tournament during the Santosh Trophy third-place match between Services and Punjab at the King Fahd International Stadium here on Saturday.
Two officials from Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) — Khaled Alturis and Faisal Alqhtani — oversaw the match as VAR and assistant VAR.
Match referee Mohammed Al Daqqash, however, did not find a single occasion to use the VAR during the contest.
The semifinals, third-place match and the final of the national football championships for the Santosh Trophy are being played in Saudi Arabia, a first in the history of the tournament.
The players from Punjab and Services thus became the first Indian footballers to play under the VAR.
The VAR technology has been used on Indian soil on two occasions earlier. It was used during the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in January-February 2022 from the quarterfinal stage. The Indian team, which qualified for the tournament as hosts, did not make the quarterfinals as COVID-19 struck many of its players after featuring in just one match.
The VAR technology was also used during the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in October last year.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran said that the VAR was used during the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup from the knockout stage. India did not qualify for the knock-out stage.
The VAR was also used during the men’s 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the UAE from the quarterfinal stage but India made an exit at the group stage.
The VAR technology supports the decision-making process of the referee in four game-changing situations: goals and offences leading up to a goal, penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty, direct red card incidents, and mistaken identity.
Throughout a match, the VAR team constantly checks for clear and obvious errors related to these four match-changing situations.
The VAR team communicates with the referee only for clear and obvious mistakes or serious missed incidents. But it is ultimately the on-field referee who will take a call whether he needs help from the VAR