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COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY IN SOCCER
 
INTRODUCTION
 
Computer technology has significantly transformed our lifestyles. Its effect on sports performance cannot be ignored. Coaches are realising the potential of such technology for analysing and simulating playing performance in competition and training. This article demonstrates several examples of modern computerised match analysis systems used in soccer.
 
COMPUTERISED ANALYSIS OF SOCCER PERFORMANCE
 

Over the last 15 years, various match analysis systems have appeared on the market, each offering different levels of data and information (Fig 1). Basic game systems simply analyse the match cassette, allowing basic data input which provides statistical information such as the number of passes and tackles. Depending on the system, this can be done in real-time. Video montage software allows coaches to chop up and put together a digitised video of the match (post match only) to select, extract and visualise the information they want. This can be linked to what is known as a digital time code where specific match events such as headers, shots or passes are inputted (can be done in real-time or post-match) at the precise moment in time where they happened. These events can then be directly accessed and visualised at the click of a button. This avoids having to search through the film using a video recorder which is extremely time consuming.

Digital cameras have become cheaper and better in image quality. This type of camera can be linked directly to a computer and the film analysed straightaway, saving time (avoids the digitisation of a video cassette produced from non-digital type cameras).

The limitations of this type of software is the speed and accuracy of data can input. Equipment such as touch sensitive pads and voice recognition have made data input quicker and more accurate. The latter is extremely useful as it allows a match analyst to permanently view the game and input the data without being distracted. However, pitch positions of player actions are determined by simply clicking on a pitch representing the playing area, leading to inaccurate data. This lack of accuracy has led to the development of systems which automatically calculate player positions and movements.

 
Note that both GPS & Computerised tracking stems may need to be complemented using video montage and that the ball actions such as passes, tackles, headers etc have to be inputted separately. The input of ball actions can be undertaken in real-time but video montage is post-match.

Computerised systems which automatically calculate the positions and track the movements of players using camera, video and computer technology are becoming more commonplace. These systems require the installation of several cameras to cover the whole pitch so that every player is always captured on film, whatever their position on the pitch and the moment in time. Using complex trigonometry, mathematical algorithms and digital video/image processing techniques, player positions and movements can be calculated. Due to the positions of the cameras and the difficulty in tracking many moving objects using such complex techniques, doubts may persist on the accuracy of the data produced. As well, the possibility of real-time analysis is extremely limited.

Global Positioning Systems or GPS could well be the future in the computerised analysis of sport. GPS are used by boats to determine their exact positions while portable systems are available and are useful for mountaineering expeditions etc. If GPS can be implemented in soccer training and competition, this would mean an analysis of the movements and physical activity profiles (total distances run, n° of sprints...) of every single player on the pitch and at every moment of the action. Linking this to data produced from training devices such as heart rate testers would allow an excellent picture of the overall player effort. Click here to read more about modern training equipment such as heart rate testers.

GPS have the advantage of being extremely accurate and allowing real-time analysis. This means that precise, objective data is rapidly produced and can be given to the coach for immediate evaluation. The disadvantage of such technology being that portable GPS systems are at present, both fragile, relatively bulky and expensive. Due to the high impacts often seen in soccer, the microchip transmitters may break unless they are robust or well protected. However, by the time this article is published and with daily technological advances, the latest GPS may now be the size of stamp !

The data produced from the above mentioned systems must somehow be stored and presented. Modern databases allow data to be stored, retrieved, compared and presented in a quick and efficient manner. Player tracking systems allow the whole game to be reconstructed in 2D/3D. This means that the coach can visualise the recreated movements of his players and when linked to the actual video of the game, this offers a powerful means of evaluating and understanding tactical, technical and physical performance.

These performance records can allow detailed comparisons of the player's abilities for team selection and development. For example, analysis may lead to the choice of a players most effective playing position or detect a particular weakness in his game and calculate the best possible training program to improve performance. Artificial Intelligence may help in these processes by allowing the expert knowledge, playing and selection criteria of top level coaches to be available in the computer system and implemented in the development of the player.

Finally, the recent development of Internet has led companies to look at the possibilities of transferring match analysis data on-line and transmitting live games in an attractive 3D format. Faster connection and better programs to visualise the data will allow surfers to watch games in a different and exciting way.

 
CONCLUSION
 

Computerised match analysis systems are used for collecting, analysing and displaying large amounts of data on playing performance and for simulating movement. Advances in modern technology allow these processes to be achieved more quickly and accurately. Future Artificial Intelligence systems may help in human soccer selection and training.

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