José Chieira was one of many young people who dedicated hours and hours to video games. One day he woke up and had an invitation to work with Sporting Lisbon, one of the biggest teams in Portugal, his mission: to find the next Cristiano Ronaldo.
Chiera says that in his youth he spent more than 100 hours a year playing Football Manager (FM), even before it was called that. This is a football management video game. Don’t get confused with FIFA. Football Manager It is developed by Sports Interactive, and the player acts as a scout who has to find players or coaching staff who can give results in the team, all with algorithms that are managed by the machine in an intelligent way.
The interesting thing about Football Manager is its database, which boasts 550 thousand chips with information on leagues from 51 countries. Not only in the First Division, but also in lower categories and even in footballers who are still developing in basic forces. To achieve all this, the developers have 1,300 scouts who provide data on the leagues where they have a presence.
In 1994, José Chieira joined the scouting team of Football Manager, when at that time it was called Championship Manager. There began the titanic work of preparing complete reports of all kinds of footballers. And it all had its reward because you can boast that you discovered an elite footballer.
Through the video game, our protagonist found Deco at Alverca FC, a modest team from the Second Division of Portugal. Yes, the man who achieved success with Barcelona, Chelsea and the Portuguese team, came out of a video game.
“I saw the best footballer who had ever played in that division. He showed his quality across the field and he had intuition, skill. It was pure magic. He was thin and he wasn’t fast, but he had everything to play for the elite ”, Chiera relates for the book Football Manager Stole My Life.
How does Football Manager work?
Football Manager allows you to choose a team that you must manage to respond to the owners’ demands and provide solutions to the players to achieve the best results. The artificial intelligence will try to make things more complicated for you. Through algorithms the machine perceives the environment of the equipment and tests you. It does not work the same if you lead Barcelona or the modest Leganés, remember, the machine is more intelligent.
The algorithm of FM It is not the same as other video games that are based on player attributes or 85/100 completion. The data provided by Sports Interactiv considers variables beyond their technique or physical performance, since the mentality and harmony of your team are crucial for the game. Some of the more gifted players may despise playing alongside others, or it just doesn’t fit your style of play, which is why you have to think like a strategist.
Remember that you are in front of a program that thinks intelligently: if your players are not fast, then you should ask the outfielder to cut the grass in a different way, to give just one example.
Cheira, ahead of his time
In 2001, José Chieira received an invitation to collaborate with the scouting team of Sporting de Lisboa. That was his arrival in professional football and the beginning of his career. Later he passed through Vitoria de Setubal and Académica de Coimbra in Portugal. In 2006 he became the chief scout for Panathinaikos in Greece. In 2010, he returned to Portugal with Porto and is currently with Sporting Lisbon.
Taking the leap from a video game to real life is not easy, in a soccer team there are direct consequences in your work if you do not find the ideal player, there are millions of dollars invested that can go to waste.
The amount of data it returns Football Manager has made professional football teams sign agreements with the platform to reduce errors in transfers. For example, FM He explains the player’s profile, head shot power, speed, behavior and if he likes to play alone or which footballers should surround him to improve his performance. Even with the help of artificial intelligence you can sit down to negotiate a player’s contract, the program will try to be demanding, but you must always manage resources.
From the computer to the bench
Many teams have admitted that they used Football Manager to search for new talents.
- Prozone Recruiter is a company that in 2014 partnered with the game developers for one purpose: to create a platform with the database of FM and through a subscription access the information of more than 550 thousand available files.
- Everton of the Premier League was among the first interested. In 2008, it signed an agreement with the developers to have access to all the ‘data’ and in this way to be able to recruit footballers with a promising future.
- Chelsea used it. André Villas-Boas accepted that he used the video game when he was José Mourinho’s technical assistant. Through the platform he analyzed the possible signings of The Blues.
- Bolton Wanderers revealed that they use Football Manager to reduce the error in their transfers.
- Hoffenheim of the Bundesliga publicly assumed that they found and signed Roberto Firmino from the modest Brazilian Figueirense through FM.
“One scout was struck by his progression in the game and we followed him in Brazil. We saw everything the game said in person and decided to go for it. It was a risky bet, paying 4 million euros for a 17 … 18-year-old player who came from the Second Division, but in the end we sold him for 42 million plus future payments, which I think was an excellent business ”, said Luiz Pfannestiel, sports director of the team.
As well as José Chieira, there are others gamers who have made the leap to professional football. The most recent case is that of Andrej Pavlovich, a 22-year-old Argentine who, with his knowledge in Football Manager He led a team in Serbia and then approached FK Bezanija from the same country to help them. The team responded with a phone call and asked him to start working with the first team and then continued with the basic forces.
John Boileau tried it in 2006, he sent a letter to address to England’s Middlesbourgh. In his CV he detailed his qualities after playing Football Manager in 2005, he described that he was able to promote Nuneaton from Conference North to Championship or the achievement of the Swedish league with Kalmar FF. A month later the team responded to the letter, thanked the interest, but they rejected it because they only consider it a video game.
Are you interested in joining? Football Manager is available for download and you can get it in exchange for 50 dollars, but in times of pandemic you can receive a 50% discount. Everything is ready, you can be the next scout of a club, but remember: you must dedicate hours to be functional. Experts recommend more than 100 hours a year.
Data and artificial intelligence are important in professional football. Recruitment centers need trained people who can interpret algorithms to reduce the risk when signing a player. Although of course, for some it is still a simple video game …
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