I was telling you last week that I was in Merida, Mexico, for a conference. After it and in question time, one arrived that was already on the program, the matter of the data, the big data, and its application in soccer. I say that I was on the program because, as before any press conference, there are a minimum of questions that are known to come out and one can prepare them, at this time, in football, that matter of data is fully topical.
In THE COUNTRY of the past you come, David Álvarez told us from London how theoretical physicists, mathematicians and programmers met at a football conference. A great article in which it is explained very well how this wave is reaching football and how, at the moment, it is debated internally whether to get on that wave in order not to lose competitiveness or if it is just a fashion, more or less influenced by American sports and his passion for data and figures. In this article we had the most extreme position that arises in these cases and that came from James Cryne, from Barnsley, when he said that his dream was that the opinion does not have any weight in the decisions, that these come only from the data.
And this took me back to my days as a BUP student, when we learned syllogisms and that scientific reasoning would be something like: if soccer is science and science is measurable, then soccer is measurable. Well, or something like that, it sure isn’t the most accurate formulation, but I think it’s enough for my reasoning. Because, indeed, football has many measurable elements that are already being applied to all physical and tactical work processes.
We still have problems with the precise quality of the data, but this element is refining over time and with the systems, although, from time to time, you may wonder if that distance measured by a satellite located thousands of kilometers will be very precise, but as it is the same that is giving us coverage in a remote place, because we all begin to integrate in our minds that those impossibilities of the past are real options of the future … and of the present.
The question would be that in football the exceptional is normal. And that in the game, the associative is what, in the end, makes the difference. And that is very difficult to measure unless it is a posteriori, of course. A couple of examples for you to explain to me: France’s goal in the Nations League final, when a position that was illegal was artificially made legal and gave France the chance to be champion. If we look at it before the game and think about how many chances there was of a play like that in a national team final, surely the margin would be very small, we would say marginal. Well, that’s what happened.
Second example: in the 2011 Wembley Champions final, Barça had possession of more than 60% and you will always have heard that when you have the ball you run less. Well, it’s not going to be: that day the FC Barcelona players ran more than those of Manchester United. Only that their movements and runs took place in parts of the field that were out of the camera shot and away from the ball, an element always a magnet for any spectator.
Finally, if football is science, it must also be true that science is football. Can you imagine someone from soccer arriving in Silicon Valley to say that all that data is useless and that only the subjective is valid? Easier, are there many from the world of football claimed to work in these areas of development?
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