The much-discussed handball from Belgian Openda


This article was last updated on June 18, 2024

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The much-discussed handball from Belgian Openda: this is how VAR uses ‘connecting ball technology’

The Belgians lost their first group match against Slovakia 1-0 on Tuesday evening. Two goals were disallowed by the video referee: Romelu Lukaku was offside on the first goal and Loïs Openda made handball before the second goal.

The second disallowed goal in particular was the talk of the day. Why did the referee walk to the off-field monitor? Why did a kind of ‘heart rate monitor’ come into the picture?

That has everything to do with ball technology. The ball contains special technology that measures exactly where the ball is, how fast it is going and whether it is touched.

European Championship first: Belgium goal disallowed with the help of a ball sensor

The touch is displayed with a kind of heart rate monitor, allowing VAR to see that Openda had made contact with the ball with his hand before passing the ball to Lukaku, who shot in.

Data in the ball

The measurement is done using connecting ball technology in the ball itself. This was first officially used at the Men’s World Cup in Qatar in 2022 and also at the Women’s World Cup in 2023.

The official European Championship ball 2024 was developed by Adidas in collaboration with FIFA and Kinexon. An ultra-sensitive motion sensor – which is held in place in the center of the ball – registers every movement of the ball 500 times per second and transmits that data.

That data provides all kinds of insights, such as speed of the ball, rotation, the path the ball took, ball possession, you name it. That is why you can also see on your screen how hard a shot was, or what the precise rotation was.

Artificial intelligence

To determine whether there was a violation, the movement data is combined with data from camera systems and artificial intelligence. With these three components the exact game situation can be determined. If something is wrong, the VAR will be notified.

Goal or no goal? Lukaku is offside by millimeters: 1-1 against Slovakia does not count

Lukaku’s equalizer ten minutes after the break; apparently a valid goal. But after data analysis, the Belgian turned out to have been offside by just a millimeter.

If there is a possible violation, the referee checks the VAR images. And that is where it can sometimes be painful.

An offside situation is immediately clear, down to the millimeter. But with hands, in addition to registration, it is also about the correct interpretation of the FIFA Guidelines, i.e. whether the player consciously touched the ball with his hand or arm or extended his body in an unnatural manner, with a risk of handball.

The referee ruled that this was the case with Openda.

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