Speaking at a press conference ahead of the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup final, FIFA President Gianni Infantino hailed Japan’s passion for the beautiful game. Approximately 68,000 tickets for Sunday’s final have been secured by fans, the media and sponsors, making the global club showpiece event between Real Madrid and Kashima Antlers one of the highest-attended Club World Cup finals to be held in Japan.
It’s also been a tournament to remember for the hosts on the pitch, with J.League champions Kashima Antlers becoming the first Asian side to reach the final, and where a much-anticipated tie with UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid at the International Stadium Yokohama awaits.
An important piece of football history was made at Japan 2016 with video assistance being used to support referees with match-changing decisions, as part of a trial process, for the first time in a FIFA tournament. Video Assistant Referees (VARs) helped referee Viktor Kassai in awarding a first-half penalty to Kashima Antlers in their semi-final against Colombia’s Atletico Nacional, after receiving information about a missed incident from VAR Danny Makkelie.
Gianni Infantino, FIFA President
I want to thank the JFA for the work they have done in helping organise this fantastic event, and the Japanese people, whose love for football continues to inspire me. It is inspiring not just for me but everyone who is involved with football and wants this sport to develop. We have seen in Japan the development that has occurred in the last number of years and this development comes to quite a nice point where we have a Japanese team in the Club World final for the first time. It’s quite an achievement, but this is football. This is what it’s about, it’s inspiring.
Atletico Nacional flew to Japan shortly after having to cope with the tragedy that has touched all of us of Chapecoense. Atletico Nacional should have been playing Chapecoense in the Copa Sudamericana final but the air tragedy didn’t allow this match to happen. The reaction of the Atletico Nacional fans has touched the hearts of all those who love football around the world. I want to express the gratitude of FIFA to Atletico Nacional who have touched our hearts and feelings regarding this tragedy.
Kohzo Tashima, JFA President
Kashima Antlers advancing to the final is a huge step for Japanese football and hosting this tournament has been very significant to the development of the game in Japan. I feel the difference between the continents is narrowing down and other confederations are becoming stronger, and now Kashima have been able to advance to the final. The Japanese football family are in love with this tournament. The JFA is happy to support the development and success of the Club World Cup and I always look forward to seeing this tournament coming back to Japan. This tournament has been historic with Kashima getting to the final and VAR being implemented into a FIFA tournament for the first time.
On VARs being used at an official FIFA tournament for the first time:
Gianni Infantino, FIFA President
Governing bodies – FIFA in particular – have been criticised over the years for refusing to use video assistance refereeing. We have finally decided to move from words to action, to try and see how it works. I was sceptical myself at first but if you don’t try it concretely, how do you know if it’s going to work or not?
This decision was taken in March at the IFAB meeting. Since then a lot of decisions have been made about how this technology should be used, some offline tests have taken place, some tests in friendly games, but nothing replaces the real test in an official competition. This is the reason why we have decided to make the tests now at the Club World Cup in Japan. We have made history by using VAR for the first time. We have worked a lot to be able to get there. Of course, it is a challenge to put the theory in practice. There may be some criticism but that’s why we’re making the tests, to see what can be improved. We believe VAR can deliver minimum interference for maximum benefit, which is essential for the flow of the game. We are extremely positive.
The IFAB will take a final decision about [the future of VAR]. It’s premature to talk about it’s full implementation. As of today, there are competitions in 12 countries that have agreed to be part of this test and we welcome this very much. We already have a good view by the end of next year about what it means if it has to be implemented in different countries. If IFAB decides to approve the VAR system to go forward in March 2018, FIFA will certainly use it in its tournaments. It is then however up to each association to decide if they use the VAR system and in competitions. It’s their decision. One of the key elements, we don’t want the flow of the game to be interrupted. The flow of the game is one of football’s biggest assets. We cannot allow the flow of the game to be interrupted.
Marco van Basten, FIFA Chief Officer for Technical Development
I think everybody understands that if you start a new thing, sometimes in the beginning you need a few more seconds. If these few, let’s say 10-15 seconds, give us all a better feeling that the right decision has been made, I think we should all be happy with it. I’m convinced that in a few months and years that everyone will understand and improve the way referees will make decisions. It’s just a matter of time and I think in the end everyone is happy about it.
Massimo Busacca, Head of FIFA's Refereeing Department
The most difficult part will be the referee deciding when video should be used. It will always be a human taking the decision and correcting possible clear mistakes, not technology. There is still much to do. We have to have more communication. Every innovation takes time. But I think what’s important today is that we have started and we have results. Some say they are good, some say they are to be corrected, but this is the way to do it, to continue with VAR. We're not trying to check every decision, we are saying that it will be used in critical moments. If there is a clear mistake, then it will be used.