Gambian referee Bakary Papa Gassama admits fans, players and match officials are still learning about VAR technology
One of Africa’s most respected referees Gambian Bakary Papa Gassama says that VAR technology cannot eliminate every mistake made by match officials.
Gassama already has experience with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) at last year’s Confederations Cup and will be able to use the technology again at the World Cup in Russia.
He says everyone from referees to fans are still learning about how to make the best use of the system.
“We’ve seen big, big mistakes by referees, and top referees for that matter, but VAR cannot eliminate – but can reduce big mistakes,” he told BBC Sport.
“VAR is very advantageous, because it is good for football now.
“Now, we are in learning process – people have to understood that.
“It is just like a new job: before you understand it, it will take some time. As time goes on, with this new technology, many referees and many VARs will understand better.”
The Gambian believes the new technology gives match officials a sense of security when they make big decisions.
“During the game, without VAR, if an unfortunate situation arises, and you don’t have any help, it is very sad,” he explained.
“It is like VAR gives you ‘life insurance,’ it makes you more comfortable as the back-up team is going to help you.
“VAR is a very good tool for referees, because, as a referee, you don’t want a scandal or a very big mistake that you will regret.
Gambian referee Bakary Papa Gassama already has experience using VAR technology
“That’s why, as a point of view, it is very important for the VAR to come as an extra eye, an extra help, because the VAR is also an experienced referee, like you on the pitch, to help in crucial situations.
“It is important for everybody, not only for referees, for players, for supporters, for everybody.
“It can eliminate all big mistakes, that is our aim – for VAR to come to eliminate all big mistakes, but VAR can not stop talking about football, no, no. That is practically impossible.”
Gassama dismisses the idea that Fifa has rushed to introduce the system for the tournament in Russia.
“If we don’t start, we will never begin. We have to start and Fifa has done a lot for the referees and the VAR to be on top and to understand,” he insisted.
“We have to start somewhere. It is not the first time VAR has been used in Fifa competitions.
“Fifa has done a lot of seminars for us to be ready, to feel comfortable using VAR. Our aim as referees is to go to Russia and to have a very good tournament, as referees, VARs and assistant referees.
He is also confident that the VAR technology will not add much pressure to officiating at the World Cup.
“Everybody knows the World Cup is the biggest stage, but all games, all competitions are important, so it is also challenging for us, being the first World Cup to try and do our best,” he added.
“That is why we are here, to try and do our best, to have a successful World Cup.
“As I said before, VAR didn’t come to stop all the talking in football, but we are trying to do our best as referees and assistant referees to eliminate scandal.”