Africa-Press – Eswatini. Eswatini national team Sihlangu are set to play games under the watchful ‘eye’ of the renowned Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Latest reports suggest that the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) is now in possession of the VAR equipment and will have it in play from the semi-finals stage of the COSAFA Cup set for June. Meanwhile, earlier stages will serve as training for referees. According to COSAFA Referees Manager Felix Tangawarima, VAR will be used in the COSAFA Men’s Senior Championships, Confederation of African Football (CAF)/COSAFA Women’s Champions League and Women’s COSAFA Senior Championships. The men’s competition is expected in June. “After a successful pilot project last year at the COSAFA Women’s Championship, the aim now is to have VAR at all COSAFA events in the future,” Tangawarima said.


Eswatini already has a (International Federation of Football Association) FIFA-approved video match official in Letticia Viana. She is licensed to officiate in the VAR section. She became the first Eswatini referee to officiate using the system during the FIFA Under-17s Women’s World Cup in India over a year ago. Viana also officiated in Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and Confederation of African Football (CAF) Women Champions League matches. This was when COSAFA introduced the system in October, last year. Meanwhile, reports further suggest that there are also plans to set up VAR Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa (SA) to help member countries to train their referees. There will be workshops while member countries can also request to send their match officials to the academy. This will come as a major boost, as Eswatini referees no longer officiate in CAF competitions. They lack the much needed technological skills that include officiating in VAR matches.

Eswatini national team and Mbabane Highlanders goalkeeper Khanyakwezwe Shabalala welcomed the decision to introduce VAR in the regional tournament. “Looking at how match officials make mistakes, the presence of this renowned system would help a lot,” Shabalala said. Meanwhile, Sihlangu skipper and police side Royal Leopard midfielder Sifiso Matse echoed Shabalala’s words. “We would be satisfied knowing the matches were fairly played. Regardless, of the system having its negatives, our lamentations regarding some referees’ decisions would be prevented,” Matse said.

Eswatini international and Botswana side Jwaneng Galaxy midfielder Mxolisi Mkhonto, on the other hand, shared a mixed view. “I think this thing of VAR is also controlled by humans because we often see on TV sometimes it doesn’t work well. However, I feel it will help in some decisions,” Mkhonto said.

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