Technology is put on the line for first time

Systems compete at Club World Cup. All they need now is a disputed goal


The head of the company behind Hawk-Eye – one of two goal-line technology systems being used at the Club World Cup in Japan – was eagerly anticipating it being put to its long-awaited first football test this morning. But, he added, if not, "it would be nice to have a phantom goal at some point in the tournament so we can prove how well our product works".

Hawk-Eye's managing director, Stephen Carter, was fielding questions ahead of the tournament's second match, between Monterrey of Mexico and the South Korean champions Ulsan Hyundai, when his system will make its tournament debut. He may not have been aware that 6,000 miles away the player whose misfortune cost England so dearly in Bloemfontein two-and-a-half years ago and triggered the belated introduction of the technology had just been declared fit to play in Japan.

And what symmetry it would be should Chelsea's Frank Lampard, arguably the game's highest-profile casualty of an official's blind spot about whether a ball crossed the line, become the first player to benefit from equipment designed to eradicate such expensive errors.

Fifa decided to introduce both Hawk-Eye and GoalRef after they won "unanimous" support from the International Football Association Board panel. The Fifa president and long-time sceptic, Sepp Blatter, had changed his stance when he saw England denied Lampard's clear goal at the 2010 World Cup.

Two days after Fabio Capello's side headed for home, Blatter said Fifa must reopen the debate, though insisted it must involve only goal-line decisions. Video replay remains off-limits for judgement calls, such as penalties or offside.

The first game of the ninth instalment of the Club World Cup passed off without the need for the referral system – GoalRef was deployed at Yokohama as the J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima saw off Auckland City 1-0 on Thursday.

The data from Japan – such as it might be – will be used to help Fifa decide by the end of March which system they will employ for the six venues at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. Not that technology is what floats the boats of Japanese football fans. Ten years after co-hosting the World Cup, and staging this annual event for the sixth time, football is beginning to take root in a country where baseball used to be the leading sport. Football now has top spot in terms of participation among youngsters and the J-League, who finished their 20th season last weekend, can boast the sixth-best club attendance figures in the world.

Following today's quarter-finals in Nagoya – Hiroshima face Egyptians Al Ahly in the later game – all eyes will be on the Manchester derby, in which, this nation hopes and prays, Shinji Kagawa will make his return from injury for United.

Kagawa's success, and that of a crop of other Japanese players – most of the national team now play in Europe, most notably Yuto Nagatomo at Inter Milan – has moved many observers to predict an era of unprecedented success in this part of the world.

Tom Byer has played an unlikely role in the revolution. A native New Yorker, he picked out a 10-year-old Kagawa at one of his soccer schools after finishing his own playing career in Japan.

"He was one of hundreds of kids but he was the one I selected," said Byer, before adding that it was Kagawa, not himself, who had recalled the experience.

At a tournament last month to decide the best under-12 team in the Kansai region – won by Kagawa's old club, Cerezo Osaka – Byer, who was recently appointed the head technical advisor for the Chinese School Football Programme, was looking for the next generation of stars as he gave a coaching session to a group whose touch and awareness were striking.

"So much has happened in Japan in the last 25 years," he said afterwards. "There could be another Kagawa in that session today, but there are kids half the age of this group who are learning skills and technique that will stand Japan in great stead. Kids have been empowered to practise on their own now, and doing tricks and skills with the ball is seen as cool."

Kagawa won't be here this year but the arrival of the tournament's heavyweights – Chelsea and the Brazilian side Corinthians – this week should be enough to satisfy the demanding Japanese public.

Six of the world's best in Japan opponents

Chelsea, England Uefa Champions' League winners.

Corinthians, Brazil Five-time Brazilian title winners.

CF Monterrey, Mexico Last year, lost on penalties in first game.

Al Ahly, Egypt Their fourth CWC but progress hampered by cancellation of Egyptian season after Port Said Stadium disaster, when 72 fans died.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Japan Won first J-League title two weeks ago.

Ulsan Hyundai, South Korea Won maiden Asian Champions League title this season.

Jim Foulerton

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific