Wing play

…and goal – or no goal? At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, technology from the German company GoalControl could provide the answer. The sophisticated system had its dress rehearsal at the Confed Cup in June. DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo delivered the goal-line technology

Out or in? Luckily, in this case, the question is irrelevant. The crates, which were loaded aboard six Lufthansa Cargo aircraft in early May under the supervision of DB Schenker, definitely contained the technology that will revolutionize world soccer. The cargo’s destination: Rio de Janeiro. This is where the GoalControl system rang in a new soccer era at the Confederations Cup.

 As is right and proper, this revolution was kicked off by two men from the motherland of soccer – albeit unintentionally: At the 1966 World Cup final, when the English player Geoff Hurst scored his famous “Wembley Goal,” he triggered a heated dispute that has been ongoing for almost 50 years about whether the ball that hit the crossbar bounced down on or behind the goal line. But the decisive impetus, which put an end to leaving this decision to the eagle eye of the referee or to chance, came in the 2010 World Cup. It was the round of the last sixteen. Once again Germany faced England. And once again an Englishman hit the lower edge of the crossbar. It was Frank Lampard, whose long-distance shot in the 38th minute was deflected from the crossbar. Although the ball definitely bounced down behind the chalk line, this time neither the referee nor the linesman saw it as such and denied the Chelsea midfielder his equalizing goal. Instead, England were routed 1:4 by Germany and eliminated from the competition.

To prevent such mistakes from happening again, the international governing body FIFA for the first time relies on technology to back up referee decisions, something that was always considered controversial. The company GoalControl had been awarded the FIFA contract for the Confed Cup in April 2013. The eight-team tournament, hosted this time by Brazil from June 15 to 30, acted as a warm up for next year’s World Cup. It came as somewhat of a surprise when the contract was awarded to the German provider – even to Dirk Broichhausen, Managing Director of GoalControl. After all, his company was ranked an outsider alongside the international competition, and had received a FIFA license to take part in the tender process just a few weeks prior to the decision. “While I was extremely pleased at the positive decision, I immediately realized that we now had to master a huge logistical challenge,” says Broichhausen reminiscing. The 20 to 25 cubic meters of technology that had to be built into each stadium needed to be consigned to Brazil in an extremely short time so as to be operational in time for the Confed Cup in June. Installing the technology in the six Brazilian stadiums meant that Broichhausen and his team of nearly 80 employees were kept busy for weeks on end in Germany and on location in Brazil. “A real added bonus of the GoalControl-4D technology are the so-called TV replays, which have the option of showing television audiences in fascinating clarity whether the ball crossed the goal line or not,” says Broichhausen explaining the benefits of his system. As yet, however, it is unclear to what extent FIFA is willing to exploit this potential.

To get this highly sensitive technology to the six Brazilian stadiums on time for assembly, Broichhausen turned to the logistics specialists at DB SCHENKERsportsevents. Apart from the cameras, the task involved transporting cables, tools, the referees’ radio-controlled watches and other equipment to Brazil as fast as possible. “The biggest challenge was the extremely short time frame,” says Marc Schäfer, Head of the Soccer Competence Center at DB SCHENKERsportsevents. “We had only nine days between collecting the consignment in Würselen in the Rhineland and the scheduled delivery in the stadiums.” In the meantime, the individual packages were collected by truck, safely and securely stowed in wooden boxes for air transport, and the customs duty paid; they were then flown to Rio and delivered overland to the six Brazilian stadiums. One of the venues was in Fortaleza, a city on the northeastern coast of Brazil, some 2,800 kilometers from Rio. “Normally, import customs clearance in Brazil is a complicated and time-consuming affair. That could seriously have jeopardized our timing. But thanks to prior agreements reached with the customs authorities and FIFA, we managed to make the seemingly impossible become possible and deliver the freight
to its destination on time.”

In cooperation with Lufthansa Cargo, Schäfer and his team ensured that the 60 crates, with a total weight of 23 tonnes and 140 cubic meters of transport goods, reached their goal in six flights. “Given these kind of dimensions and such a tight schedule, you have to be able to rely on your partners,” says Schäfer contentedly as he watches the last package being loaded. To him, this transport is very special. “After all, goal decisions not only affect players, referees and the FIFA, but millions of soccer fans, too.”
Hartwig Schülein, captain of the Lufthansa A340 aircraft, was also pleased about the special cargo he had on board his flight to Rio. “It’ll be exciting to see whether this technology will put an end to the heated debates at next year’s World Cup. And I wish our national team all the best for a successful competition. Since Germany is already providing the goal-line technology, we should at least be able take the trophy home.”

Whether GoalControl will be able to celebrate its World Cup debut in Brazil in 2014 is currently under discussion. But one thing is already clear: If the FIFA gives the go-ahead, then Dirk Broichhausen will have little time to rejoice before he moves into the concrete planning stage. For at the World Cup there will be twelve and not just six stadiums to equip with GoalControl technology. At least the soccer revolutionary knows that he can rely on a strong team.