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Vanishing Spray: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

World Cup fans have been wowed this year with some super exciting soccer and major upsets—in addition to the use of all sorts of new technologies. Goal-line technology is one of them, meant to help out match officials (did this guy not get the memo?), and the tournament has seen the unveiling of the world’s most advanced soccer ball and a robotic exoskeleton, showcased at the opening ceremonies. Vanishing spray, used by referees during free kicks, is another.

This stuff is virtually magic, and has taken the games to a whole new level. Here’s what you need to know about the vanishing spray being used in the 2014 World Cup.


1. Vanishing Spray is Meant to Keep Kicker From Toeing the Line

It can be difficult for a referee to ensure that everyone stays where he needs to during a free kick, but not with this magic spray. Referees are not required to use the spray, though they are required to carry it with them. Referees draw a line with the spray to delineate where the defending team has to stand so that they stay 10 yards from the ball, and another line to mark where the ball should be positioned. Regardless of whether or not the referee uses it, the rules for the game are the same, and there are no regulations as to how much spray a referee should use for each side of the free kick.


2. It Was Invented By a Argentine Journalist

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(Getty)

Argentine journalist Pablo Silva was likely tired of the debate over whether or not the free kicker or the defending team stepped over imaginary lines during a free kick, so he decided to do something about it. Sir Bobby Charlton and Neil Midgely, a FA referee, first developed a prototype of the spray in England in the 1980s, yet Silva is credited with developing the first commercially viable version of the spray, which hit the market in 2002. He debuted his product as “9–15,” referring to the distances required of the free kick in metric terms. A Brazilian inventor, Heine Allemagne, was the first to patent the spray, however, and did so in 2002.


3. It’s Been Used in the Americas For Ages

Americans (both North and South) have it down when it comes to white lines. The spray has been used in league matches in South America, Canada, and the U.S. for several years, though never in an inter-continental game or series.

The president of FIFA, however, said in 2010 that goal-line technology (very similar to this vanishing spray) “had no place in football,” and that the game was meant to be played by human beings with a healthy margin for error. Purists of the game may agree with this sentiment, while lovers of absolute fairness or justice will laude the use of the spray as a way to cut down on instances of cheating. Some Major League Soccer fans in the U.S. have dubbed the spray “felony foam.”


4. You Don’t Want to Get Too Close

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(Getty)

If a referee makes a bad call, detractors could claim he’s merely loopy from the vanishing spray*. LiveScience says that the white foaming paint disappears in about a minute, and is made of butane, isobutene, propane gas, a foaming agent, water, and other chemicals. It works because when gas leaves the can it expands, leaving water droplets on the field. It looks a little like shaving cream when it’s being sprayed onto the field, but acts like temporary spray paint.

*The spray is technically non-toxic, but you can always blame it anyway if the case is dire.


5. Fan WAGS Are Toeing the Line Too

In a funny and unexpected use of the magic spray, World Cup fans are using the spray in their living rooms and kitchens to keep WAGS away from the television. The jury’s out as to whether this is to keep them from changing the channel or to keep them from walking in front of the TV at an especially crucial time. Fans apparently use shaving cream if they don’t have access to the real deal, which seems like a messy way to keep the television clear… though desperate times call for desperate measures.


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