June 10, 2019 / 9:19 AM / 6 days ago

Soccer: South Africa captain Van Wyk backs VAR, but says gray areas remain

(Reuters) - South Africa captain Janine van Wyk has backed the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in football, but believes it is only “fair to an extent” and is still bound by the interpretation of match officials.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Women's World Cup - Group B - Spain v South Africa - Stade Oceane, Le Havre, France - June 8, 2019 South Africa's Janine Van Wyk concedes a penalty following a handball REUTERS/Phil Noble

Van Wyk’s team were on the wrong end of a VAR decision in their 3-1 women’s World Cup loss to Spain on Saturday when fullback Nothando Vilakazi was adjudged to have committed a foul in the box in her follow-through after a clearance.

It was an incident not noticed by the officials in live play, but once Chilean referee Maria Carvajal had been alerted by VAR, she viewed it on the pitchside screen and made the penalty call.

Vilakazi also received a second yellow card for the foul and from there the game unraveled for the South Africans.

With the score 1-1 going into the final 10 minutes it was a crucial moment, even though Spain were beginning to get on top as their greater quality shone through.

“When VAR came out, I was hesitant of what I felt about it,” Van Wyk told reporters.

“It was good in that teams can’t cheat and get away with things any more, you have to play by the rules.

“But then you have a situation like we were in when it can turn against you. With VAR unclear, decisions can still be made, but I said to my team mates that if it was in our favor, we would look at VAR and say it was amazing.

“We can’t hate it now because it has turned the tables against us. In the next game it could be for us.”

Van Wyk believes such incidents are still open to the referee’s interpretation of events and this remains a gray area.

“My take is that it is fair to an extent,” she said. “It is there to help the referee because they can’t get everything right.

“But in instances like that it still goes with the referee’s decision at the end of the day and I feel we were hard done by.”

South Africa face China in their second pool game in Paris on Thursday, with both teams having lost their openers.

“The match is do-or-die for us,” Van Wyk said. “With China losing their opening game against Germany, it will be a tough battle and they will come out harder than they did in their first game.

“It’s an important game for us to see whether we are making it through to the next round.”

Reporting By Nick Said, editing by Nick Mulvenney

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