Microchip Smartball or also known as bionic ball is a soccer ball that has been equipped with a microchip in it. Microchip is designed to be able to assist the referee in deciding whether the ball has entered the goal and whether the ball has come out of the playing field 1. Microchip will send a message as a goal mark or ball mark out into the watch the referee uses with the help of Goal Line Technology located in the goal line and the exit line.
In practice, the referee remains the final decision holder in ratifying goals or deciding the ball has left the playing field. The referee can decide whether the ball is in or not even if the message delivered by the microchip is different from the decision he made. Each goal message that enters the referee’s watch is stored in the watch’s memory. In the official FIFA event, the use of Microchip Smartball has been held twice, namely at the 2005 U-17 World Cup in Peru and the 2007 Club World Cup in Japan.
The presence of Microchip Smartball is motivated by controversial events in soccer matches. The decision of the referee, especially in validating the goal, is a crucial decision because it determines the final outcome of the match. Therefore, referees must be careful and thorough because mistakes in decision making can have negative impacts such as protests that lead to anarchist actions or scathing condemnation from players, coaches, supporters, football observers, or the media 2.
Referees are humans who also have physical limitations and can be wrong in making decisions or we are familiar with the term human error. To reduce or prevent it, the referee needs tools or technology that can improve the accuracy of his decision. (Senders & NATO, 1991). Therefore, the idea of making the microchip smartball technology which officially debuted by FIFA in 2005 3. This was deemed urgent by various parties due to the controversial referee’s decision, especially in deciding whether the ball has entered the goal or not, has occurred at various parts of the world.
History and Mechanisms
• Smartball, FIFA U-17 World Cup 2005, Peru
o The FIFA U-17 World Cup event in Peru in 2005 was the official debut for the microchip smartball. In the event, the smartball used was a ball technology developed by Adidas with the German company, Cairos AG and the German Fraunhofer Institute. This ball is equipped with a microchip that has a size of less than 15mm. This tool will send a signal when the ball crosses the goal line. The signal is transmitted by 12 antennas that are in the corner of the field. The transmitted signal is sent to the watch used by the referee to give the message that the ball has crossed the goal line. The message will be displayed virtually without sound less than one second after the event. If the ball has crossed the goal line then the message “goal” will appear otherwise if it does not cross the goal line there will be no message. Guenter Pfau states that the signals sent cannot be disturbed by radio and telephone signals because they are encrypted 21.
• Adidas Teamgeist II, 2007 FIFA Club World Cup, Japan
o The FIFA Club World Cup World Cup performance in Japan in 2007 witnessed the official debut of the Teamgeist II ball. This ball is a Microchip Smartball developed from previous Smartball balls that were used in the U-17 World Cup event, Peru 22. This ball was developed by Adidas together with the German company, Cairos AG. This ball is equipped with a microchip designed to help the referee to determine when and whether the ball has crossed the goal line or not.
This ball uses a magnetic field. The magnetic field is used to provide feedback to the central computer in real-time 23. The central komupter serves to track the location of the ball on the field and send data directly to the referee through the referee’s watch. The use of magnetic fields with more stable and accurate components in the ball aims to provide more accurate data and is not interrupted by weather factors and technical systems that are in soccer matches.
Pros and cons
The use of Microchip Smartball in the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup competition turned out to get a positive response both from AC Milan coach at the time, Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti stated that Adidas Teamgeist II had good consistency 24. Ancelotti also stated that the ball did not have any special differences from other Adidas balls. He considered his players were generally satisfied with the performance of the ball. The online TFOT magazine also gave a positive statement supporting the presence of Microchip Smartball. The magazine publishes acid test results on its magnetic field system
used Adidas Teamgeist II. The test results state that the system used is in accordance with all the terms and conditions of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) 25.
The use of technology as a tool in soccer specifically Microchip Smartball with Goal Line Technology has also drawn criticism. UEFA president Michel Platini said that the presence of the technology would bring football into “playstation football” 26. Platini continued to admit that referees must also be able to overcome the criticism addressed to them. However, he prefers other ways to overcome them. Platini emphasized to increase the number of assistant referees to as many as two people behind the goal 27. According to him, it was the right way to overcome the problem and still be able to respect the match officials. He added that in modern times which involved many cameras needing an additional number of referees in a match. Sepp Blatter, FIFA President, and David Collins, Secretary General of the Welsh Footbal Association (WFA) also criticized the use of technology. They emphasize more on human values. They have the view that human games should be led by humans as well as not machines 28. In the case of the 2010 World Cup, FIFA through Secretary General Jerome Valcke the use of technology in football will not be discussed and there may not be a perfect system without errors 29. FIFA is more concerned with improvement referee performance rather than the use of technology. There are also soccer players who are not happy and criticize the use of Microchip Smartball. Hugo Ibarra, who played for Boca Juniors at the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup, criticized the use of the technology. Miguel Angel Russo, Boca Juniors coach at the competition, said that Ibarra was not accustomed to the ball because of a change in track. He also added that if there is a use of new balls, players must work hard first to get used to the ball 30.