For some of the players in this year’s World Cup it will be their first game in which the mysterious substance vanishing spray will be used. What on Earth is it?!

Free Kick Wales Vs Brazil

Free Kick: Wales Vs Brazil.
Rights; Akshay Davis

When a free kick is awarded near the penalty area, the referee will pull a can of the mysterious aerosol from his shorts and spray the shaving foam-esque substance in a circle around the ball. He will then spray a line 10 yards away from the ball, where the wall will set up. It is designed to stop defenders encroaching upon the ball and potentially blocking what could be a goal scoring opportunity. It also prevents attackers from moving the ball further forward in order to give themselves a better attacking prospect. It has been trialled in Argentina, Brazil and Morocco before making an appearance in the U20 World Cup earlier this year. The beauty of the vanishing spray is that, it vanishes. After a minute the marks disappear into the turf.

Why is it such a useful weapon in the referee’s arsenal?

In the 2006 World Cup, just 9 of the 147 goals scored were direct free kicks. In 2010, this figure dropped to 5 in 145. English referee Howard Webb believes the spray will increase the number of direct free kicks scored this year, a statement which is hard to disagree with. With the likes of Messi and Ronaldo stood over dead ball situations, it is likely that we will see more goals from free kicks than ever before. Many referees, including Webb and Jonas Eriksson said they were sceptical at first but once they had used it they began to see the effect it had.

Developer Pablo Silva said the idea was born when encroachment saw a free kick of his own blocked and his frustration led to him receiving a red card. He developed the idea in 2002 and it has snowballed from there. He said that he will be ‘most proud that the product will be recognised at an international level.’ Silva regularly holds workshops in order to show referees how the spray works. If the successful trials are anything to go by, the vanishing spray is set to play a big part, not just in the World Cup, but in the entirety of the footballing world.


About the author

Sam Jordan-Turner

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Studying history at the University of Hull and an aspiring sports journalist. Massive sports fan, writing about rugby, football or American football.