Football history will be rewritten during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal against Ghana made him the first male player to score in five World Cups. Lionel Messi has played his 1000th game and scored his first goal in the knockout phase. Oliver Giroud scored his 52nd goal for France, a record for the team.
But when England crushed Iran 6-2, the game set a more obscure FIFA record: it was the longest World Cup group stage match.
By the time the final whistle blew, both sides had played 117 minutes. The marathon match had been extended by an extra 27 minutes over both halves due to a series of stoppages added as part of FIFA’s relatively new time control efforts.
During the group stage, referees added in total 563 minutes of play – more than nine hours. Only one of the eight opening matches of the tournament finished under 100 minutes.
In the 1-1 draw between Wales and the US, 14 minutes and 34 seconds were added to the clock, while 12 minutes and 49 seconds were added to the Netherlands vs Senegal match. The opening game between Qatar and Ecuador had 10 minutes and 18 seconds of stoppage time.
So why was there so much stoppage time at the 2022 World Cup?
Football matches should be 90 minutes off normal time unless it is a knockout match. FIFA’s fourth officials routinely add time at the end of each half.
During the 2018 World Cup, FIFA began monitoring stoppage times heavily to account for time spent on injuries, celebrations, video assistant referee (VAR) assessments and substitutions.
Ahead of this year’s World Cup, Pierluigi Collina, president of FIFA’s refereeing committee and a former referee himself, warned fans to brace themselves for some matches lasting over 100 minutes.
“This is nothing new,” Collina told reporters in November. “In Russia it became quite normal for the fourth official to show the board with seven, eight, nine minutes left on the clock.”
FIFA’s goal, he said, is to maximize effective playing time.
“Whenever there will be an incident, such as treatment, substitution, penalty, red card or goal celebration, I want to underline that because it is a moment of joy for one team, maybe not for the other, but it may take some time.” a minute and a half,” he said.
FIFA has long complained about lengthy goal celebrations and unnecessary showboating, which can sometimes last a minute or more.
“So imagine two or three goals are scored in a half, and it’s easy to lose five or six minutes, and this team has to be compensated at the end,” said Collina.
Other football pundits have argued that stoppage time should be welcomed by fans who want to get the most bang for their buck after spending a lot of money to see a match in a stadium.
“I think it’s good for the game because fans are just as important as anyone else,” retired FIFA and England Premier League referee Mark Halsey told Al Jazeera. “It costs a lot of money to watch football. We want to see the ball in play longer. That’s what we want. We get more than 90 minutes now.”
VAR has been criticized worldwide since its debut at the World Cup in Russia. It tracks every part of players on the field and uses semi-automatic technology through the use of cameras, sensors and video replay to make offside calls and nullify goals.
In Qatar in particular, many fans have complained that technology has hampered the flow of the game, sometimes extending the stoppage time of a match by several minutes.
The stoppages have sparked controversy in the footballing world, with some players expressing displeasure with the extra time due to the increased risk of injury.
In the course of this World Cup, Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand suffered a severe concussion against England. Saudi Arabia defender Yasser Alshahrani was also injured when he was kneed by his own goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais against Argentina.
The international players’ union Fifpro said it was monitoring the situation.
“Increasing effective playing time by 10 to 15 percent adds significantly to the time under physical competition for players,” said Fifpro Secretary General Jonas Baer-Hoffmann. “It especially underscores how important workload protection is for players. It needs to be fixed now.”
However, some players seem to enjoy the longer matches.
“Enjoy the amount of time the officials are adding to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar,” former England and Liverpool midfielder Jamie Carragher said on Twitter. “Too much time is wasted in football!”
Enjoy the amount of time added by the officials #QatarWorldCup2022 too much time is wasted in football!
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) November 21, 2022
Domestic football leagues are not fully sold under the new FIFA rules. The Premier League said it will not introduce the strict new time-stop rules after the World Cup.
Some fans have even blamed the entire match result on the stoppage times.
When Iran scored two goals in stoppage time to cruise to a 2-0 victory over Wales, some were quick to pin Wales’ defeat on the new time-maximizing initiative.
“Interesting observation,” football YouTuber Mark Goldbridge tweeted on November 25. “Wales lost because of this FIFA directive to add an unprecedented amount of stoppage time to games.”
South American football correspondent Tom Vickery likened the stoppages to “adding extra rounds to the end of a boxing match”.
“Not in favor of these gigantic stoppage times,” Vickery wrote on Twitter. “Grinding the players into the ground. 4 would have been fine. 9? Not for me.”
While stoppage time has decided some games, teams get to make history in other ways as well.
Cameroon’s winning goal against Brazil in the second half came in stoppage time. While the goal was not enough to secure Cameroon a place in the last 16, Vincent Aboubakar’s conversion brought on by the extra time made Cameroon the first African nation to beat five-time World Cup champions Brazil.
In 2017, FIFA’s then technical director, Marco van Basten, proposed a 60-minute stop-start game clock similar to basketball. However, the idea was never implemented.
Others have suggested that using an independent timekeeper, similar to rugby, could be another alternative to long stoppage time.
“If you stop the clock, it will be the timekeeper who stops the clock every time that ball goes out or every time that ball goes – every time there is a substitution, every time there is a goal celebration – then that timekeeper starts the clock.clock restarts it when the ball is back in play,” Halsey told Al Jazeera English.
Halsey cast goalkeepers as the worst repeat offenders when it comes to time theft.
“I was a goalkeeper, so you can see that goalkeepers take their time,” he said. “What they often do now, they tend to catch that ball, the ball gets into them and then they fall to the ground with no one around them, lay down on the ground, look around a bit,… then they get up and they maybe start getting the ball back in play. I think you watch more than 10 to 15 seconds when the goalkeeper has a ball in his hands.”
Halsey suggested a 10-second time limit and, if goalkeepers exceed that limit, to penalize them with an indirect free kick and a yellow card.
“I think referees should be stronger in managing such situations,” he said.