During the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, SportTechie and N3XT Sports are surveying key soccer experts around the world to understand the current state of soccer technology and innovation. (More Soccer Technology viewpoints.)
Simone Ripamonti is an accredited Soccer strength and conditioning coach. During an apprenticeship at Real Madrid in 2008, he worked with star players such as Italian defender—and 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year—Fabio Cannavaro, Spanish striker Raúl, and Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy. He has also held positions at Italian clubs U.C. Sampdoria and Cagliari Calcio, Emirati club Al-Nasr Dubai SC, and Australian team Melbourne City FC.
The biggest advancement in soccer Technology over the last decade has come from using video and data from wearable devices “to interpret the complexity of the game,” Ripamonti explained. “It not only helps to understand the weaknesses and strength of the single player’s performances but also of the entire team both from a physical and from a coaching prospective. The data then directly influences the training and match strategies.”
According to Ripamonti, one of the key challenges to implementing new technology in an elite sports environment is the knowledge base of the team. If the coaching staff of a soccer club doesn’t have enough experience with a particular tool, they may not be able to successfully integrate it into their existing system.
Another problem is the cost of different technologies. “Most of the sophisticated systems—such as video technology and data collection software—are costly,” Ripamonti added. “Clubs invest a great amount of their available budget in innovative technology that improves not only the training but also the facilities.”
Video assistant referees made their debut at this summer’s World Cup, and have allowed officials to stop the play to review a decision using supporting video. Through the group stage of the tournament, games were stopped 17 times for review, including one instance where a penalty decision awarded to Brazilian forward Neymar was overturned. Ripamonti, however, is not a fan of the technology. “Personally, the introduction of the VAR system doesn’t have a positive influence upon the match as it stops the flow of the game—players stand around with danger of losing focus and “being in the moment”—and the referee’s decision, in the end, is still very subjective.”
Instead, Ripamonti believes a better integration of technology will come through the use of in-game electronic performance and tracking systems. These were also approved by FIFA for the 2018 tournament. “Performance analysts are now allowed to transmit data and communicate during the match itself on player metrics and positional data through video footage.” As a result, Ripamonti explained, “the game strategies have immensely improved.”