Billy Beane is a baseball general manager and the subject of Michael Lewis’ bestselling book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.
While a lot of sports enthusiasts might know a bit about his journey in the film adaptation, it doesn’t even explain half the essence of Beane’s philosophy.
Regardless of which sport you follow or work in, you must admit that rules are different. But in an economy that is riddled with financial disparity, not everyone/team will have a chance to grow and scale the lofty heights of sporting supremacy.
Although we do love the romantic notion of a minnow punching above its weight and causing a bit of discomfort to the established giants, such an instance is more of a flash in the pan than anything else.
I’ve been working in football as a strategist and football performance analyst for over ten years. In past I’ve engineered transfer moves, helped move a Pakistani player to a team in Sacramento, created a growth pathway for a player who represented Egypt at the 2018 World Cup in Russia among other things.
During my journey in football in general, I’ve noticed that you cannot compete with the best in the business if your strategy isn’t in-line with the realities of the environment you’re in. Sure you can make all sorts of plans to become a game-changer but as long as you don’t have the right tools to do that, those ambitions are going to gather dust on the whiteboard.
In the last five years, a lot has changed in football. You have a lot of data available to see how a player or team is performing. However, data on its own is not enough. It is insights that matter. Throw in the potential of artificial intelligence and you might unearth endless possibilities.
Pakistan football is yet to show any initiative when it comes to using cutting edge technology in order to make the right sporting decisions. Being Pakistan’s first and so far only football scout and recruitment & performance analyst, I believe that we have a big opportunity to help the country improve its player development processes.
No one can deny that there is a lot of talent in Pakistan with football being a game of choice in most regions. However, talent is not something that is unique to us. Every country has hidden gems. What matters more is how you maximize the output of the talent. Sadly, we have been missing out on a lot of this talent simply because at every level of the game, coaches and stakeholders are using the same old processes that are considered relics of the past in mature football markets.
So why does performance analysis matters?
To cut the long story short, football in Pakistan is not the most lucrative sport around. And in order to be an attractive proposition to the wider audience, the game needs to improve. The national team has never won a World Cup qualification game and rarely plays international friendlies.
At local level, the domestic league isn’t very eye-catching and coaches mostly implement traditional methods of selecting players for a game. Apart from a few games, you cannot predict the outcome of most games because pretty much every coach uses a similar philosophy, kick the ball and roll with the punches.
Now imagine if you have extensive mathematical and video data available you would be able to see exactly what a player is doing right on the field and what parts of their game you can improve upon. Not only that, preferences of a coach such as formation going forward or while defending can be assessed.
Not only that, through a well-formulate strategy, a team can identify players that are suitable to a coach’s playing philosophy rather than constantly relying on a player who may or may not give the same output in the next five or ten years.
At the same time, performance analysis and data-driven approach helps players understand their roles on the field and identify areas of weakness that can be worked on. A performance analysis department also takes the burden off of the shoulders of the coaching staff by providing them with crucial bits of information that would help them train players better and more effectively.
While the performance analysis as an industry has grown a lot in emerging markets, Pakistan is yet to embrace the concept. However, the coming years are going to force companies from different industries to be more sustainable in their strategies and football is no different.
It goes without saying that Pakistan football is in need of a major revamp and a smarter development and performance strategy needs to be leading the charge.