Semi-Automated Offside Technology to Feature in AFC Asian Cup in Qatar

SEOUL - The upcoming AFC Asian Cup, set to take place next month in Qatar, will see the introduction of the Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT) for the first time in the tournament's history, as announced by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). This technology, which gained attention during its use in last year's FIFA World Cup, will be applied across all 51 matches of the competition, scheduled from January 12 to February 10.

According to Yonhap News Agency, this marks the first instance of the SAOT being used in a continental men's competition by any confederation, following its debut at FIFA's premier event in 2022. The AFC shared a sample 3D animation generated by the SAOT, illustrating its capabilities.

Additionally, the Asian Cup will fully integrate the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system for the first time, expanding its use from the quarterfinals stage of the 2019 tournament. The AFC highlighted that the SAOT system has undergone thorough testing, adhering to protocols and guidelines established by FIFA and approved by the International Football Association Board, the sport's law-making body.

The SAOT system operates with 12 specialized cameras placed around the field to accurately track the positions of both the ball and players. It focuses on the positioning of limbs and other body parts crucial for offside decisions. When a player receiving the ball is flagged as offside, an alert is sent to the VAR. The VAR then verifies the player's position using lines drawn automatically by the SAOT system. The final decision is made by the VAR and communicated to the on-field referee.

Upon finalization of the decision, the same data used by officials will be converted into a 3D animation. This animation will be displayed on stadium screens and provided to television broadcasters, offering clarity and transparency in decision-making.

AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, in a statement, expressed confidence in the capabilities of Asian match officials, emphasizing that the introduction of SAOT will elevate the standards of refereeing. He remarked that the AFC's commitment to adopting the latest technological innovations and the full implementation of the VAR system at the Asian Cup aligns with their vision to offer an exemplary stage for players, teams, and officials.

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