MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) – After introducing technology to do away with phantom goals at the 2014 World Cup , FIFA is ensuring crafty defenders stop creeping in to cut down the distances on free kicks at next year's tournament in Brazil.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Thursday that a vanishing spray currently being used at the Club World Cup to designate distances for free kicks will be used at the world's biggest soccer event.
''We started using it in all (our) competitions this year and at the World Cup we will definitely keep on the same path,'' Blatter said in Marrakech on Thursday. ''For the discipline of the game, it's good. I was skeptical at first but after talking to referees who used this system, they were all happy with it.''
Referees have been spraying the water-based, shaving cream-like foam on fields in Morocco to ensure players lining up a defensive wall against a free kick respect the 9.15 meter distance to the spot of the infraction, where a circle is sprayed to keep attackers from rolling the ball forward.
''The representative of Bayern Munich said that here they can take free kicks with the wall nine meters away, while at home it's only five,'' Blatter said. ''It's a novelty.''
FIFA has also confirmed it will use goal-line technology, which is also on show in Morocco, at the World Cup to rule on disputed goals.
When notified by The Associated Press his spray product would be on show at the World Cup, developer Pablo Silva was overwhelmed over a product that was six years in the making.
''We've climbed a long, steep curve to get here,'' Silva told the AP. ''Economically, this will be very important for us but what makes us most proud is that the product will be recognized at an international level. You can't put a price on that.''
Silva said Argentina Football Federation president Julio Grondona was instrumental in introducing the spray - termed 9:15 for the distance - into the country's domestic leagues.
It made its debut in a Sept. 2008 second-division match between Los Andes and Chacarita Jr. before eventually being introduced to each tier.
Use in the Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores, and Major League Soccer followed before the International Football Association Board authorized the spray and it was introduced into the FIFA-organized Under-20 World Cup earlier this year.
The idea, which is an Argentina-Brazil collaboration, came to Silva while playing football.
''We were losing 1-0 and had a free kick and as I stood over it I knew I could make this left-footed shot and even the game. But when I finally took my shot the ball struck the defender in the stomach as he was just 3 meters away,'' said Silva, whose frankness accompanies a physical similarity to fictional TV character Tony Soprano.
''I was in a rage and I ran straight to the referee who would eventually show me a red card for protesting. And that's when it came to me.''
Referees have backed the spray, according to Silva, who constantly holds workshops to educate them on how to apply the lines and spots correctly. It works on all surfaces, and he is currently developing an orange color to use on snow.
''If you hold it too high the line is too thin and disappears quickly, and if you hold it too close it's too thick so you have to delicately draw with it,'' Silva said. ''It's not harmful to the players, the field or the ozone.''
While Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola was happy with the water-based spray which disappears from any surface within minutes, former Italy coach Marcelo Lippi was wary about its influence on referees.
''It's an intelligent thing, it can be useful only at the point where the referees actually measures the distance between the attackers and the line,'' Lippi said. ''Twice I saw a 15-meter difference, which is way too much.''
When the spray is first used at the opening game between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo, Silva will have a pin at hand.
''Just to make sure I'm not dreaming,'' he said.