World Cup 2022: When Technology Shapes Football

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In Qatar, it’s the kick-off of a Football World Cup like no other which has just been given. In addition to the many controversies and criticisms that accompany the event, this 22e edition of the World Cup marks a turning point in history. This is the first World Cup held in winter, the first to take place in an Arab Gulf State, and the first edition to involve a whole armada of new technologies. The objective is to tip football into “modernity”, without causing it to lose its culture and traditions. The case is complex and football fans are far from tuning their violins on this thorny subject.


In recent years, the introduction of video assistance to arbitration (or VAR) has caused a lot of ink to flow among enthusiasts. Supposed to improve fairness and justice, it quickly received critics who dispute the effectiveness of this technology. While some are nostalgic for the football of the past, this World Cup confirms that technology is becoming more and more important in this sport.


For its World Cup, Qatar has also spent lavishly in disbursing $220 billion according to the estimates of Sports Front Office. An astronomical sum to build infrastructure and offer state-of-the-art technologies.


A connected balloon


Already mentioned in our columns the balloon connected is one of the novelties of this 2022 World Cup. The official ball, proposed by Adidas, has in particular an inertial measurement unit sensor that records its position 500 times per second. This balloon like no other can measure speed or orientation, using a rechargeable battery. It also helps the referees by sending the collected data to the officials Fifamaking it easier to judge offsides and disputes over hits.


A concentrate of technology that Adidas reserves for FIFA. The “Al Rihla” ball will not be marketed by the brand. In the same spirit, the connected cleats and jerseys – full of sensors – have been developing for several years. They provide access to ever more statistics, which are then aggregated and analyzed. The GPS, trackers, and other drones to follow the training and movements of players are becoming widespread. In addition to data, the use of technology aims to prevent and prevent sports injuries.

The semi-automatic offside


The technological transformation of football requires better detection of offsides. This is where the semi-automatic offside made his debut this year in the European Cup. This new video assistance to arbitration (VAR) takes the name of SAOT (for Semi-Automated Offside Technology or semi-automated offside) and comes to facilitate the detection of offside; without however taking the decision in place of the refereeing body. Additional help, therefore, relies on 12 cameras positioned under the roof of the stadium. They control up to 29 data points – such as hands, feet, or head – 50 times per second. The data collected by the ball, which we mentioned earlier, will also be available to VAR assistants. It allows very precise detection of the exact moment when the ball is played.


The goal is to have a more efficient look than that of the human eye, able to check and react quickly in the event of an offside. As a reminder, a player is in an offside position if any part of his head, trunk, or legs is in the opposing half of the pitch (not including the center line) and closer to the goal line. opposing goal than the ball and the penultimate opponent.


Proud of its technology, FIFA Explains on its website: “By combining data from the ball and the players and using an artificial intelligence system, the new technology automatically sends an offside alert to video referees each time the ball is received by an attacker. who was in an illegal position when the ball was played by a teammate”. On the side of the spectators, they see displayed a 3D animation “precisely detailing the position of the player’s limbs at the time the ball was played”. This 3D animation is shown on the stadium’s giant screens and is made available to broadcasters.


A World Cup under close surveillance


The game is not the only one of this World Cup to be the subject of a close overseer. With 15,000 biometric cameras and advanced algorithmic techniques, Qatar is pushing the boundaries when it comes to surveillance technologies. The subject is divided and while many are worried about technological drift, Niyas Abdulrahiman replies that what we see in Qatar is the future norm for sporting events. Responsible for the technologies of the event, he specifies: “What you see here is the future of stadium operations. A new normal, a new trend in venue operation, this is Qatar’s contribution to the world of sport”.


Moreover, this monitoring is not limited to the various stages. They are verified in certain strategic places (stations, streets close to stadiums, etc.) while drones are used to protect stadiums. Note that it would be wrong to think that these strict measures are limited to a sporting event organized in Qatar. In Europe, facial recognition is gradually trying to find a place for itself in French and European stadiums.


Controversial technology that will not be used at the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, announces The Parisian. However, it is likely that the subject will come back to the table very quickly in the years to come.


FIFA Player App: full of data for players


In addition to cameras and sensors that track players’ movements, there’s the FIFA Player App. Unlike the FIFA+ platform intended for the general public, this application is intended for the players themselves. The app offers participants access to all their data and performances, offering specific information adapted to players. It is available on iOS and Android, but you are unlikely to be the target. However, you can consult our selection of essential applications to follow this competition.


Individual player data is available immediately after matches. They get information on their performance on the field, physical monitoring data, advanced football, or even football intelligence. On its site, FIFA details some of the data collected by the application:


• The advanced football data: it can be for example the nature of the movements made by a player in order to receive the ball, the intensity of his pressing against the ball carrier, or even whether he managed to break the opposing lines.
• The physical performance data: this information, highlighted on positional heat maps, includes the distance traveled at different speed thresholds, the number of runs above 25 km/h as well as the maximum speed recorded.
• The advanced football intelligence data: these new measurements make it possible to analyze football from a new angle, focusing in particular on the different phases of the game, the runs and passes that break the opposing lines, the areas where the ball is received and the pressure exerted on the carrier of the ball.

974: the removable stadium… and “reusable”


Among the billions spent by Qatar to organize its World Cup, there is stadium 974. The French football team, led by Didier Deschamps, had the opportunity to discover this amazing stadium during their group match against Denmark. His particularity? He was built from shipping containers brightly colored and presented as removable. This unique stadium with a capacity of just over 44,000 seats will host seven matches of the 2022 World Cup.


Indeed, the peninsula no larger than Île-de-France does not intend to keep all its new stadiums. The only non-air-conditioned venue at the event, the stadium 974 can be dismantled after the World Cup and even be reused elsewhere. It is already rumored that he could find refuge in Uruguay for the 2030 World Cup, provided that the candidacy of this country is accepted.
For the record, Uruguay won the first edition of the FIFA World Cup in 1930.


Air-conditioned stadiums, the controversial idea of “Dr. Cool”


Among the controversies surrounding this 22e edition of the Football World Cup, there is the question of the stadium air conditioning. The subject is obviously reacting when Qatar decided to offer air conditioning in open-air stadiums. Ecological nonsense which has drawn criticism since the country obtained the organization of the sporting event.


This air conditioning is there to cope with extreme temperatures as the country knows. Faced with the risk of seeing a competition take place in the summer with a thermometer that can reach 50 degrees; the 2022 World Cup was delayed in winter. Temperatures are milder, but seven of the eight stadiums in the emirate can still rely on air conditioning. Everyone will have their opinion on the issue and Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani believes that it is destined to become “Standard”.


Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, a professor originally from Sudan who studied in Great Britain, is the designer. He worked for 13 years on this technology which he provides “as sustainable as possible”. Nicknamed “Dr. Cool”, he claims that it helps protect players from injuries, preserve the lawnofremove ambient humidity, and even the “body odor” in the stands.


Eager to offer advanced technologies, Qatar does not seem to have skimped on the means. The organizers of the World Cup claim that the systems developed by Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani are “estimated 40% more durable than existing techniques”.


Air-conditioned stadiums for the 2026 World Cup?


Indeed, solutions already exist and air conditioning in a stadium is not a totally new idea. In the United States, the famous American football stadium of the Dallas Cowboys, the AT&T Stadium, also has an air conditioning system. It has also been controversial for many years.
According to “Dr. Cool”, however, it is necessary to expect these stages to multiply. “In the future, for player safety, air-conditioned stadiums will become more the norm” and this could be verified as early as 2026 in the United States and Mexico. The two countries will organize with Canada the next football world cup.
Note that the cooling system used by Qatar is powered by a solar panel farm. “We have the best thermal insulation, and the best sensors, in order to use the right amount of energy in each area. We don’t overdo it” said Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani in remarks reported by the AFP.