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Football comes back – with a tech twist

The world’s football leagues have been on hold for three months, but technology is helping soccer come back, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Bundesliga brings new insights

Meanwhile, to the north, the German Bundesliga last month became the first major football league to restart, but with similar restrictions in place. There, too, technology is playing a major role. The league partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide fans watching in more than 200 countries with a new experience.

They debuted Bundesliga Match Facts, providing two new sets of statistics for commentators and fans to gain a deeper understanding of the state of play: Average Positions, and Expected Goals (xGoals), providing insights into intended playing style based on real-time analysis of data. The data is generated from live video feeds, streamed into the AWS cloud, analysed by a machine learning tool, and then instantly fed back to broadcasters as live statistics.

According to the IoT Newsdesk, published by the IoT M2M Council, the statistics help audiences better understand things like the strategy involved in decision-making on the pitch and the probability of a goal for each shot.

“Fans will be able to see the positioning of a team’s players on the pitch and gain insight into the team’s intended playing style. Average Positions provides insights based on analysis performed on data captured from tracking a player’s average location on the field, which is then displayed in real time.

“This Bundesliga Match Fact allows viewers to identify the current momentum on the field and understand tactical changes. The statistic will help pinpoint if a team is setting up in an attacking or defending style, pressing up the middle, or using the wings. By displaying the average location and position of each player in real time, Average Positions helps fans understand tactical changes as the game progresses.”

The system uses a system called Amazon SageMaker, a machine learning platform which, coincidentally, is also used by South African banks to identify fraudulent transactions as they happen.

IoT Newsdesk reported: “To calculate the precision of xGoals, machine-learning models were trained by analysing 40,000 historical shots on goal in addition to an array of features derived from positional data, including distance to goal, angle to goal, player speed, number of defenders in line of shot and goalkeeper coverage.”

According to Andy Isherwood, vice president of AWS, the company “is helping the Bundesliga enhance the broadcast viewing experience by delivering deeper insights into the game that didn’t previously exist”.

“Bundesliga is able to provide real-time statistics to predict future plays and outcomes. These two new statistics are just the beginning of what we’ll be able to deliver for football fans as we look forward to unlocking new ways to better educate, engage and entertain viewers around the world.”

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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