Xavi Hernandezcoach of Barcelona, and Unai Emery, from Villarreal, share a video analyst. He is not a person. It is a software developed by the Spanish company Kognia that is capable of automatically detecting key tactical situations in soccer. Barcelona’s own coach, Iker Casillas and Joan Vilà, one of the fathers of ‘La Masia’, appear among the partners of a project that in 2022 plans to close its fourth round of investment.
The tool automates the process of video editing and analysis of game concepts, being able to detect more than 200 static situations structured by player, line and team. Tactical dispositions from how a striker traces breaking unchecks or the splitting of a lateral in the band.
This is the third year of development of a technology whose seed began to be cultivated in 2008. It was in a student flat in the Sants neighborhood of Barcelona, where Maurici López-Felip, at that time a student of Physical Activity Sciences and Sport, he earned extra money editing video analysis that Joan Vilà used so that footballers like Carles Puyol, among others, could improve tactically.
“You had to cut the moment, make it shorter or longer depending on what the player wanted, download the video, use another tool to do the paint…it was an inefficient process and I realized it didn’t make sense.”, explains López-Felip, current CEO of the company.
This football fan crossed the pond thanks to a scholarship to study in the United States, where he completed his studies in Illinois and received a doctorate from the University of Connecticut.
They were key years. “He was clear that football could not be explained solely by physical concepts”, emphasizes Maurici López-Felip. It was precisely in the United States where he met Henry Harrison in 2015, the company’s current chief technology officer, who with his computational knowledge helped him finish shaping the idea.
“At that time the coaches had knowledge of the player’s careers, but not of the game. What a coach wants to know is: have we won the defenses back when we had to win it, have we generated situations of spaces between the lines at the moment of receiving? These semantic aspects of the game were not generated by anyone“, remember.
Contact with Xavi
Maurici continued to maintain a close relationship with Joan Vilà, head of methodology at the Barcelona until 2018 and one of the soccer fathers of Xavi Hernandez. And so it was when they presented the project to the soccer player from Egar, who at that time was spending his last months as an Al Sadd player before becoming coach of the Qatari league team.
In the words of the company’s CEO, the legend of the Barca He saw it “very clearly” and, in addition to being one of the project partners, in 2020 he became one of the first technicians to test the tool, which he now also uses at Barça.
The tool is useful for analyzing actions of the team itself, of rival squads, as well as of players. The coaches only need video images, whether produced by the club itself or those offered by the competitions, so that the software, through algorithms and advanced computer vision techniques, processes them and converts them into data for analysis.
For now, the company has already incorporated a group of investors as strategic partners, all of them professionals with experience in the football and technology industry, among which, in addition to Xavi and Casillas, Bolt Ventures, an investment firm with experience in the sports industry in Europe and the United States.
In the medium term, starting in 2023, its promoters hope to develop software to analyze tactical situations in other team sports.
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