China / Society

Big data could help scout for soccer talent

By Sun Xiaochen ( Updated: 2016-03-19 19:55

As high-tech equipment helps elite athletes push their boundaries of performance to the limit, a new system featuring cloud computing and data analysis will be expected to reshape grassroots soccer in China.

Inspired by the central government's call to raise soccer's profile nationwide, Sport 8 International and Tongfang Cloud Computing Technology Co Ltd announced on Friday to join hands in developing an Internet-based data collecting, computing and processing system, the "Future Star Soccer Cloud", to better scout, assess and train young talents at the grassroots level.

The system, which analyzes large amounts of data collected from wearable training devices, video footage of training sessions and online sources, could be used to help scouts discover soccer talents with extraordinary physical skills and to track training effects as well as to customize training schemes for each of the players.

Bai Qiang, CEO and co-founder of Sport 8, a company offering online-to-offline soccer education, envisioned that the system will be likely to reshape the game's grassroots development in China once it's completed.

"We decided to develop such a system because the demand of talent scouting in China is so big," said Bai, who founded the company together with famous soccer commentator Huang Jianxiang and Dutch international midfielder Wesley Sneijder in 2014.

"We often heard the complaint 'why couldn't China find 11 people who can play soccer with a big population of more than 1.3 billion?', and the lack of an adequate talent scouting and developing system is to blame."

The player assessment report produced by the system through data processing and evaluating could be used as a valuable reference for professional clubs to draft talents from lower-level amateur and school leagues, said Bai.

However, Sport 8 didn't reveal on Friday when the research and development of the new system will be completed or when it will be implemented.

Jin Zhiyang, an experienced youth soccer promoter, echoed Bai, adding that the key for China to develop into a strong soccer power in the world, as expected by President Xi Jinping is to cultivate its own talents rather than buying big-name foreign imports.

"Only relying on dozens of professional clubs and their youth programs to develop talents is not enough. We have to pay more attention to grassroots promotion and the system seems a big help in providing more scientific basis for talent development," said Jin, who is also a member of the Education Ministry's school soccer development expert panel.

In March last year, inspired by President Xi's wish to see China qualify for, host and eventually win the FIFA World Cup, China's State Council issued a blueprint to boost soccer development through youth promotion and reform of professional leagues.

The number of schools with mandatory soccer courses is targeted to reach 50,000 by 2025, from more than 8,000 at present, and 50,000 school soccer teachers will be trained in the next five years, according to the plan.

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