China’s men’s national soccer team may have failed to qualify for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, but it hasn’t stopped government agencies from gearing up their national team for the future.
According to the South China Morning Post, the government is funding research projects to help the national team and farm teams improve their game despite a history of corruption and failure to perform. The Post reports that at least three research teams have been employed to investigate the science behind what makes or breaks a team. The project involves developing a computer system that can analyze game footage and determine a given team's strengths and weaknesses. The video research technology is being supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Natural Science Foundation, which is using brain power from several universities.
Qian Xueming, a video content analyst at Xian Jiaotong University’s school of electronic and information engineering, says such research has received a lot of attention thanks to government interest, particularly since China’s research was starting from behind. Typically, when such video analysis is done on players elsewhere, dozens of special cameras are installed on pitches to capture all the angles. But in China, most research still uses telecasts of games to gather data, which is much more difficult.
“This is quite challenging,” Qian said of the technique. “But if the project succeeds, almost any video recordings of a match can be analyzed by the computer and provide some helpful insights. With sufficient government investment, I am quite sure about its success.”
Gao Hong, a former goalkeeper with the national team, said such technology would help athletes immensely. “I spend more than seven hours analyzing a match, and a lot of critical data can’t be obtained from just watching a video,” Gao, who is now a youth league coach, said in the report. “The computer can relieve coaches of a most labor-intensive job and give us some very valuable information.”
That said, Gao realizes the sport has a long way to go to reach mainstream competitive success. “Technology alone certainly can’t revive Chinese soccer, but it will definitely help a lot and narrow the gap between us and the world’s leading teams.”