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Technology in modern football

We now live in the golden age of technology. That’s a given. 

Everything you could do on a computer 20 years ago can now be done twice as fast on a device five times smaller. 

It’s the way of the future and there’s no disputing that. 

Even sports that were created thousands of years ago are now utilising technology in attempts to make their game better. 

Football is no exception. Take the recently completed 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

This World Cup was arguably one of the best in recent memory and one filled with many amazing memories.  

From the 3-3 draw between Spain and Portugal, to the explosion of Kylian Mbappe and to the shock elimination of Germany, it was a tournament that never ceased to amaze. 

But this World Cup was also the first to use the newly introduced VAR (or Video Assistant Referee) program. 

Granted, the program isn’t perfect and will take some time until it’s unanimously considered a good addition to the world game. 

Just like any technologically advanced program in sport, the VAR has its naysayers. And these people aren’t necessarily incorrect, either. 

The fact the referee is left with the final decision is a part of the program that has caused perhaps the most controversy. 

This is perhaps where those in charge can look at a sport like cricket, which utilises the third umpire system perfectly and utilises a technologically advanced program in a way that is conducive to the product and quality of the sport. 

But with the way the world is moving on and off the football pitch, it’s a great place to start, despite its controversial outcomes in some matches in Russia, none more so than the final. 

Looking past VAR, there are many other forms of technology that allow the game to be improved.  

Referees at a high enough level wear watches that don’t just tell them when to blow their whistles to start or end play, but also shots on goal that may or may not have crossed the line. 

Big screens at matches allow fans to be able to see the game from a viewpoint closer to the action as well as their general view. 

Live footballing updates from around the globe, something usually hard to come by have now been made so readily available in the last 20 years that it’s as easy as turning your phone on and opening an application. 

We even see this at National Premier League level in Australia through the use of football updates app Futbol24. 

People nowadays can see everything on these kinds of apps.

From who’s starting, who’s on the substitutes bench, who gets yellow carded, who gets red carded, who scores, you get the picture. 

This kind of access is unprecedented and has allowed the world game to develop into exactly that, a game that can be viewed and kept track of worldwide. 

It’s gotten so far that on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, games can be recorded (even if it’s just in small doses) and broadcasted live to anyone in the world who wishes to watch the match. 

Live broadcasting isn’t something we aren’t accustomed to but the way in which broadcasting has evolved ever since the 70’s and 80’s has seen the game grow rapidly in some parts of the world. 

Let’s look at the 2018 World Cup again. The way the games were broadcasted in Russia was vastly different to that of previous tournaments. 

In previous tournaments, games would be shown on recognised channels in different countries and for Australia that was SBS. 

For the Russia tournament, Optus acquired the rights to broadcast all 64 games and this was seen as a step into the future.  

For a few years now we have become accustomed to seeing popular movies, TV shows and documentaries finding their way onto streaming services such as Netflix and Stan. 

For football, it was time to make a similar move into the future. But despite all the promises made, Optus wasn’t able to deliver and its coverage of the tournament was amateurish and left many football fans across Australia shattered at not being able to see the finals of the greatest tournament on planet Earth. 

But despite all this, perhaps the biggest technological change in football has been with how players train. 

With so much technology now at clubs’ disposal, there are countless ways for players to be trained that are now vastly different and superior to some of the methods used way back when. 

Australian company Preau Sports has come up with a genius idea to incorporate new technology into the training of aspiring footballers across the globe. 

Their project ‘SmartGoals’ is a fun and innovative way of allowing technology to become an integral part of training sessions and player development from the grassroots level all the way up to clubs that are playing in the UEFA Champions League. 

‘SmartGoals’ are training cones that light up when sensors in and around the cone have been triggered. So when a player kicks a ball between two different cones, they will light up. 

This information can then be stored onto a cloud and then documented by the respective clubs to keep a close eye on player’s development and improvement over time. 

All information can be stored and viewed on the SmartGoals app which is the cherry on top of this revolutionary idea. 

With this technology now in the hands of some of the biggest clubs in Europe such as Ajax Amsterdam, it’s extremely safe to say that technology in football has arrived and if anyone has anything to say about it, it’s going to improve the quality of football and footballers to no end.

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Zlatan to the A-League – the Pros and the Cons

In recent times, rumours have begun circling that Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be making a move to the A-League.

At face value, ‘Ibra’ in the A-League sounds like a fantastic proposition.

He’s a living legend who has won titles just about everywhere he’s gone. AC Milan, Barcelona, Juventus, Inter Milan, Ajax, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United are all huge clubs he has played for during his illustrious career.

Say what you will about his arrogance and ego, but it’s a part of why he’s so revered. He doesn’t put on a mask, he is unequivocally himself.

Zlatan would instantly become the biggest name in the league today and one of the biggest names to ever come Down Under.

The exposure that soccer in Australia would get as a result of his arrival in the country would be phenomenal. When Zlatan first arrived in Los Angeles as a part of his move to the MLS, it was the biggest soccer news story at the time. And the MLS is a much larger competition than the A-League.

People from across the globe would start watching A-League fixtures and stadiums would be packed to the rafters.

In a time where soccer in Australia could use a popularity boost, Zlatan would bring people across from other sports and be the star attraction in Australia.

Shirts sales would skyrocket. Fans from other clubs would buy shirts purely because it’s Zlatan.

I mean, you’d be silly not to.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the A-League could be the necessary sugar hit the A-League needs. But that could be all it is. A sugar hit. A flash in the pan.

David Villa was fantastic when he was loaned out to Melbourne City, albeit for the mere four games.

Ibra would probably play more than four matches, but the rumours are also stating that he could be in the country for as little as six weeks.

That’s nowhere near enough time.

Once Zlatan leaves, any overseas exposure that arose from his arrival in Australia would instantly dissipate. Fans from other sports would return to their sports of choice.

Basically, any and all interest garnered from Zlatan being in the league would go with Zlatan.

Australian-based soccer fans would understandably feel aggrieved by his departure. There are also many soccer fans based here that do not follow the A-League, instead preferring the European leagues.

After Zlatan leaves, where do you think they’ll go? Back to their Optus Sport subscriptions.

When you look at Zlatan’s playing career, you’ll notice one recurring theme.

At all but one club he’s played for, he’s never made more than 90 appearances.

He made 122 for Paris Saint-Germain during his four year stint in France’s capital, but he has never been one to stay the course with one club.

Four years is indeed his longest tenure at any club but even that’s lower than most players.

What does all this mean? He’s not a loyal player. He doesn’t play for the club. His character is such that he only ever sees what’s in it for him.

What would that mean for whichever A-League club would pick him up?

It would mean that it’s nothing more than a cash grab for him. It would almost be paid leave for someone like Zlatan.

He would train once or twice and play the weekend’s game. But he wouldn’t be giving it his all. His heart wouldn’t be in it.

Yes, he plays with passion and hunger unlike 99% of every player out there. But it’s not as if he’s playing for any reward other than money.

There wouldn’t be much motivation for him.

As a club, do you want your highest paid player to be someone who would be apathetic? I certainly wouldn’t, nor should any other club’s executives.

Zlatan would be a huge coup for the A-League. His name is enough to draw a crowd wherever he goes.

But if his rumoured stint in the A-League would be as little as six to eight weeks, would it be a worthwhile investment for the league and its stakeholders?

That’s for you to decide.

 

 

AFC continues partnership with FTA Indonesian broadcaster MNC

The AFC

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have confirmed they have extended their partnership with Indonesian broadcaster MNC.

The new deal will run between the period of 2021-2024 and will include all major AFC national team and club competitions. Tournaments such as the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 and the AFC Champions League will be shown by the broadcaster.

MNC will provide viewers with extensive coverage of the Indonesian national team and club matches through various channels and digital platforms. Neutral matches played in AFC’s key competitions will be also be aired across MNC’s network.

The extended partnership will not only benefit Indonesian fans, with MNC broadcasting matches into Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.

Dato’ Windsor John, the AFC General Secretary, stated: “Indonesia is home to some of Asia’s most dedicated football fans and this partnership underlines not only the passion that exists in that country for Asian football but also the confidence that the broadcasters have in the AFC’s competitions.

“We are delighted to have extended our very successful relationship with MNC and look forward to sharing some historic moments with their millions of football-loving viewers as the game in Asia moves into a new era.”

Hary Tanoesoedibjo, Group Chairman of the MNC Group, said about the deal: “We are delighted to announce that we have secured the most prestigious football competitions in Asia from 2021-2024. Football is the most popular sport in the country, and we are proud to establish this venture to bring fans a wide range of sports entertainment.

“The addition of various AFC competitions will further strengthen MNC’s position as a ‘must see’ FTA network for any football fan. Millions of people in Indonesia will have the opportunity to enjoy and support Indonesian national team football as well as club football on an international scale.”

Are the Joeys’ slow starts evidence of a vacuum of opportunity for young Australian footballers?

With the Joeys currently involved in the FIFA U-17’s World Cup, some of Australia’s best young footballers are on show for the first time on the world stage. It is one of the rare opportunities for them to be so. Promising Australian talent is often well and truly distanced from public attention, with few tournaments available for them to show their wares.

All bar one of the U-17’s squad are contracted to professional clubs, with the majority honing their skills at youth level and biding their time before receiving a crack at top flight professional play.

Brisbane Roar’s Izaack Powell and Melbourne Victory’s Birkan Kirdar have both had a taste of the top level, yet for most it is something of a waiting game. That waiting builds frustration and a footballing anxiety to impress.

Such has appeared to be the case for the Joeys in both of their group matches thus far. Jumped early and stunned in the headlights by Ecuador, the young Australians were two goals behind after just nine minutes. There was something of a revival, plenty of possession and a late goal, yet it was a disappointing start to the tournament.

Things began in much the same way against Hungary yesterday. This time it took a little longer, 20 minutes in fact, for a two goal deficit to be established, but the Aussies were once again frantic and energetic without being poised and polished.

Prior to Hungary’s opener in the 14th minute, the Joeys had looked good, really good; seeking to make amends for their opening fixture. However, as soon as the Hungarians found their rhythm, the gaps began to appear and anxiety levels in the Joey’s squad appeared to increase.

What followed was the most stirring of second half comebacks from Australia. A penalty was followed by an equaliser in the 69th and 74th minutes and the Joeys should have won it late. Sadly, the winner did not come and it was to be just a lone point to keep hopes alive in the event.

It appeared clear that the Joey’s lack of experience and competitive opportunities affected their starts to both matches. Once they settled, particularly against Hungary, they looked just fine and the early swagger and confidence prior to going behind returned.

Just three members of the squad ply their trade overseas, with the remainder domestically based and involved in youth structures at A-League or NPL club level.

That essentially equates to players remaining in their home state/city and playing against opposition they know well and on a consistent basis.

A national competition similar to the FFA’s Y-League is required for them to improve, however the financial ramifications would be insurmountable for the clubs. The U-23 League can muster just eight competitive matches for its players; with clubs pooled into regions to restrain costs.

It is an unfortunate curse from which the wide brown land suffers, with airfares, accommodation and equipment expenses making extended national competitions at junior level nigh impossible.

Perhaps the answer lies in FFA supported and federation funded inter-state football, where representative teams from the eight states and territories compete for a national youth championship. School Sport Australia run such tournaments at U-16 and U-18 levels with great success.

Youth level championships would showcase the best young talent available and provide scouts with a centralised venue in which to witness that talent on show. It would expose players to all clubs across the Asian Confederation, something that is becoming increasingly important as the region grows at a rapid speed.

It is a concept that could be implemented across a range of age groups, potentially even as an extension of the U-23 Y-League concept.

It’s fundamental goal would be to have young football talent in Australia playing more often against the best opposition available; beyond club land. Forging further corporate connections, streaming inter-state matches and broadening Australia’s reach across Asia are also potential benefits.

As it stands, Australia’s youth squads are blessed with immense talent, yet appear poorly prepared for the rigours of international football. Increasing their domestic opportunities against elite opposition could go some way to improving performances on the world stage.

Of course, organising and funding such opportunities is another thing altogether.

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