If the algorithm is also on the bench. Football and computers, the story of a marriage (forced, but not too much) – Football

If the algorithm is also on the bench.  Football and computers, the story of a marriage (forced, but not too much) – Football

The player wakes up, puts on a t-shirt and reveals his form to the athletic trainer, who receives the data perhaps from the other side of the world. The t shirt is connected via Bluetooth to the mobile phone, where an app transmits information after information: the quality of sleep, recovery from the effort of previous races, the type of stress. The future is here, it coexists with winning headers and sensational saves, gestures that have existed since the ball rolled.

“Moneyball” and the distrust of the sports world

Yet football still struggles to accept the computer, as if it were an intruder in the room of dreams. This is demonstrated by the skepticism with which the decision was received Milan to use in the 2023 market the moneyball, the algorithm that analyzes and cross-references athletes’ data. Game statistics, physical characteristics, the possibility of adapting to tactical contexts direct managers towards profiles that are sometimes underestimated but which however satisfy the needs of the team based on the missing numbers. “Moneyball” is also the title of the 2011 film which tells the history of the record obtained in 2002 by Oakland Athletics, capable of winning twenty consecutive victories in the Major League of American baseball. Their general manager, Billy Beaneinterpreted by Brad Pittrelied on the algorithm and capabilities of Paul DePodesta, graduated in Economics from Harvard, not listening to the suggestions of the scouts, called up to that moment to indicate the guidelines of the purchasing campaign. And Beane himself became one of the consultants of Gerry Cardinalethe owner of the Rossoneri club, who followed the path traced by Brentford in England and since Central Jutland in Denmark.

Roberto De Bellis

De Bellis: “The footballer can lie, his physical data cannot”

Who among us, after all, doesn’t identify at least initially with the coach Art Howean extraordinary one Philip Seymour Hoffman, who shows all his perplexities for those abstruse calculations, so far from his knowledge of blades of grass and changing rooms? “But technological progress runs faster than Mbappé”, says Professor Roberto De Bellis, former athletic trainer of Juventus, AtalantaCagliari, Genoa, Catania and Chievo, under contract with the Sampdoria. She taught Motor Sciences in Verona and Padua and collaborated on courses Sports Medicine, testifying to the ever-increasing integration between the different aspects of football from which there is now no turning back. Once upon a time, for example, the athlete was asked how he was going to understand whether or not to use him on the pitch but “the footballer – explains De Bellis – is a liar by nature, if he wants to play he will always say that everything is fine. Now, however, the software allows you to analyze the heartbeat, the stress index, the recovery capacity of his muscles: all parameters that give you the real picture of his condition and allow you to understand if he is able to withstand a certain training and the effort of the match or whether it is better to plan lighter work to avoid injuries”.

Juventus player McKennie takes off his GPS device after being replaced

The more sport relies on machines, the closer it becomes to individuals

And here lies an only apparent paradox: the more sport relies on machines, the closer it becomes to the individual and his needs, without excluding the human factor, which for De Bellis is indeed more central than ever: “GPS indicates exactly the kilometers traveled by each. But if you are a mathematician and go and tell a professional that he ran less than his teammates, you have made him your enemy and you have eliminated any possible empathy. We need to know the characteristics of each individual, whether he favors quantity or quality, and understand the progress of that specific match, in which perhaps the most important actions took place away from his area of ​​the pitch, involving him less.”

The play of lights and stimuli for goalkeepers and attackers

Athletes are increasingly aware and require specialization in their work. And so football becomes (also) a game of lights. Like those used to train typical gaming skills through visual stimuli. The goalkeepers are placed in front of a device in which they have to quickly turn off the buttons that light up unexpectedly: an exercise that allows them to calculate the different reaction times between the right arm and the left arm and to program the path together to reduce them. The attackers, on the other hand, have to free themselves in the area of ​​the pitch where a light comes on and shoot at the net where another one comes on: an exercise much closer to the reality of matches because with unforeseen events it simulates the presence of the opponents.

The physical data of today’s coaches

“Within a collective we are moving more and more towards individual workloads – explains De Bellis – even if the final synthesis always falls to the coach: there are those who still ask everyone to go beyond their limits for the good of the team and those who instead read the data we offer them with great attention. But the future is sealed, because there are now many coaches who have benefited from the new methods when they were players: on my computer I have the physical and athletic data of Fabio GrossoEugenio Corini, Alberto Aquilani, Filippo e Simone Inzaghi”.

Thuram’s goal in Inter-Fiorentina

Thuram’s goal and that image on the bench

Speaking of the Italian champion coach: the video above shows his reaction to his goal Marcus Thuram in Inter-Fiorentina on 3 September 2023, match ended 4-0. After celebrating, Inzaghi sits on the bench and one of his closest collaborators appears behind him, Mario Cecchi, typing on the computer. That data is immediately processed thanks to programs that create databases from which to ask in real time everything or almost everything, from the ways of taking corner kicks to the players to mark because they are the most sought after by their teammates, through to the defensive choices in dangerous situations.

Milan-Atalanta 2008: a penalty saved after a sleepless night

We are very far from the prehistory of “match analysis”, the era of video cassettes when, in the editing rooms set up by clubs, clips were created to be submitted to coaches. An enormous amount of work that was divided among all the staff members, who were much less crowded then than today. When he was at Atalanta Delneri, De Bellis studied the opposing team with the goalkeeping coach. The hours spent reviewing the matches found meaning on March 30, 2008: “They awarded a penalty to Milan in the last minute of a match that we were winning 2-1 at San Siro. We had spent the night studying Pirlo: where does the penalty of fear kick, the one that must score at all costs? Almost always in the corner to the goalkeeper’s right. Pirlo starts and crosses the shot, but our Ferdinando Coppola is already there waiting for him with his hand open: corner kick and victory for Atalanta”. A goalkeeper saving a penalty: an ancient yet very modern gesture.

2024-06-20 22:01:00
#algorithm #bench #Football #computers #story #marriage #forced #Football

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