Remarkably, there are still people who don’t like the vanishing spray – the product commonly used by officials throughout North and South America to mark off distance from a free kick. I encountered this attitude while watching a game two weeks ago (though the good “journalist” I am, I’ve already forgotten which one it was). In a voice almost too crotchety and archetypal to be sincere, the commentator waxed nostalgic about a time when players would just ‘get on with it’ themselves, perhaps not realizing the irony: Vanishing spray is so effective because players didn’t used to just get on with it themselves. Since it began being used in Major League Soccer a few years ago, the only controversies about wall distance are where the referee draws his line in the wrong spot (see Will Johnson, earlier this season).
Thankfully FIFA, for all their faults, seem unwilling to live in the 1960s when it comes to soccer technology, which is why we’ll have vanishing spray at next month’s Club World Cup.
After a successful trial during the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey in July 2013 and very good overall feedback from the participating referees in the FIFA U-17 World Cup United Arab Emirates 2013, FIFA has decided to use the vanishing spray during the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco in December 2013 …
For FIFA Head of Refereeing Massimo Busacca the vanishing spray is an important tool for the referees. The feedback that he received from his match officials was largely positive, as Busacca explained. “A large majority of the officials considered the spray as a useful and helpful tool,” he said. “The spray has a clear preventive effect: The distance was always respected, so no yellow card for not respecting the distance had to be given throughout the two tournaments played so far. After the Club World Cup in Morocco further evaluations will be made. We will review the results and discuss if the spray will be used also in future FIFA competitions.”
Between the lines: If everything goes well in Morocco, we’ll probably see the spray at Brazil 2014. Grumbling pundits bemoaning the namby-pamby world we’ve created won’t like it, but there really is no reason not to use such an obviously beneficial solution.