A new creative way to analyse football matches will be applied in Egypt. Ghada Abd El-Kader has the information
In recent years, Information Technology has significantly changed our lives and that would include performance in sports. IT plays an important part in analysing and developing football and marketing sports players. Clubs and coaches are realising the potential of such technology for analysing and simulating playing performance in competition and training environments.
Last year, the Arab Academy for Science and Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT) began studying how software analyses football matches in real time.
The study was conducted in cooperation with the Regional Informatics Centre (RIC), Information Centre, the Simulator Department, and scientists and professors from Alexandria University.
"AASTMT is not only an academic institution but a consultancy forum helping the Arab nation and the world at large, RIC dean Osama Ismail said. "It is a non-profit organisation, though African countries have not used the system before. The scientific research on the subject is very little and is monopolised by international companies."
"A lot of people are gathering to help the community through football, says marketing expert Zoheir Ammar. "So, we look into the tactical side of football. Software is applied in motion analysis and practical analysis of the game. The software will not only help in the technical part but also in sports marketing and how to evaluate the cost of a player verses inefficiency in Egyptian soccer and sports."
The result is mathball, a new computer software system used to observe and analyse actions in football matches. It includes video frames, time codes, player and pitch coordinates for automatic production of video clips for defined actions, drawing charts, listings, statistical reports and comparative performances graphs for both teams and players.
Mathball automatically produces video clips and statistical information to be used in game analysis for selection of players, time and pitch criteria. It also produces drawing and statistical reports to analyse and compare team structures and individual performances of players, detailed team analysis and comparative team and individual statistics for ball possession, ball play, play setting, pass performance, defensive performance, offensive performance and faults, performance without the ball and faults.
Mathball helps coaches by serving information for the analysis of games, teams and players. A videotape is enough for a team to prepare a detailed analysis report assisted by video clips edited upon the request of coaches. For teams using a package of matches, a detailed team report can be prepared to outline general playing strategies and individual performances with video scenes. For players, games can be scanned to prepare detailed style and performance reports documenting a player's individual or team behaviour before official games or training. It can be used in improving and developing the performances of the player and in marketing the players especially when all these data can be saved out printed. System requirements are one skilled operator, a personal computer, video capture card, video recorder or player and Ms-Windows 98 or above.
"In 2004, we started making robots playing football," Ismail adds. "How it thinks and kicks the ball. It is a large branch of science which includes biorhythm, a cyclic pattern of alterations in physiology, emotions and intellect. This biorhythm affects the player's performance."
Hassan Gren, a software engineer from Turkey, talked about his experience in using the programme for the World Cup. Gren designed software for a basic football game and presented it to the coach of the Turkish national team which was used in training to the 2002 World Cup.
Gren said, "Mathball is a tool which gives new answers about your team. A match is 90 minutes, but deduct time lost due to injury, foul kicks, cautions and the like and then there is only 50 minutes of actual playing time. The best player is the player who can hold onto the ball for at least two minutes.
"The mental state of a player during a game may lead to wrong judgments. The best way to evaluate a football game is to apply some technology basis. In the final of the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations, for example, Egypt had 20 per cent more of the ball than the Ivory Coast. Egyptian players kicked the ball 660 times while the Ivory Coast 508 times."
Ismail explained, "Gren's programme is applied in Holland, Italy and Turkey. His software is very simple. It will complete the work we do in Egypt. It can work on videotape or CD and be input in the computer to begin analysing the information. Academy will teach the coaches and head of the clubs how to use it and benefit from the data. Also, the academy will issue a magazine or booklet explaining the programme and will distribute it to coaches."
Mohamed Belal, director of the sporting information unit at the Faculty of Educational Sports for Boys, said the unit was set up to provide scientific consultation for researchers about all sports activities. "We have been working for the past year in conducting tactical analyses of specific game situations or technical analyses in individual and team games."
The unit, the agent of the Dart Fish Academy in the Middle East "uses higher technology software," Belal said. "It can record the action of a player 10 minutes before or after the actual action. The coach during the match can study analysis reports about the performance of the players. The software is in English and Arabic versions."
"There is illiteracy. People don't know how to use technology in sports," Ammar said. "This is the role of the academy. We aren't very optimistic about the number of users but we are nevertheless keen to play our role as an academy. The programme is software applied with the academy. We will show the sports community how to use it in detail. We will hold seminars and pay visits to relate our experience to them in their clubs."
Computer expert Ihab Saleh adds, "This programme isn't new. It started in 1990. We tried to buy this system in 2002. In the past, the software was more complicated. The computer had to work 24 hours to give results, like a report 4,000 pages long. This programme was used in the World Cup in France 1998. Today it has become easier. We already have six computers using this system in the AASTMT and Alexandria University. We already applied the programme to six matches in the Egyptian League. It gave accurate detailed analysis of a match.
Analysis means dividing things into smaller parts, and trying to discover the relationship between smaller parts in a system approach. So much action happens during a match. For instance, the performance of the players, how many times Player A passes to Player B, key players, tactics of the team and how many times the player kicks the ball.
In order to start up the programme we apply from three up to 16 cameras on the field. Each camera shows all the various angles of the pitch. Fixed frame cameras can be used instead but for $200,000, it is expensive. You can send the reports to analysing studios, the Internet or on mobile phones so that the ordinary spectator can watch and understand."
Ammar added, "The Egyptian software made by the academy will bridge the gap between technology and cost. It will be done by the academy in the near future. The Egyptian programme will cover motion analysis in particular. It will help bring the cost down."