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The history of the World Cup is also a history of science and technology

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The World Cup is not just a football circle. In many roles that intersect with the World Cup, a role that cannot be ignored is a technology enterprise.

During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, “Google Twitter Battles Brazil World Cup Big Data Mining” “The World Cup has temporarily saved Twitter but what will happen in the future?” Both become eye-catching web titles. At this World Cup in Russia, there is still no shortage of technology giants. Google intimately expands the search function and uses Google to search for teams or the World Cup on the day of the event, the results page will add 30 minutes of great playback, all the goals and highlights of the game are clear at a glance. Microsoft's AI and data science experts use the results of previous World Cup matches and data from major competitions such as the European Cup and the Olympics. The prediction of the 2018 World Cup is given by the “random forest” model: Brazil wins.

Alibaba is standing behind the Chinese fans. They are Ali cloud engineers quietly behind the “escort” in Youku, CNTV and watch the World Cup live microphone cushions. Alibaba Cloud provides full-stack technology support for three network platforms, the technologies used include: elastic computing, CDN, video AI, narrowband HD 2.0... “70% of the World Cup live traffic on the entire network is running on Aliyun.” Just a few days before the opening of the World Cup, Alibaba also announced the 99 interactive games of the nearly 30 business groups around the World Cup. These companies involved in “interaction” cover almost all areas related to user life: Youku, Taobao, Tmall, Alipay, Hungry, UC, Box Horse Fresh, Flying Pig...

He said that science and technology is the protagonist of this era does not seem excessive. In less than a century, technology has been rushing forward at an unprecedented rate. Technology has become the shaper, regulator and background of almost all areas of human life - the World Cup is no exception. From the World Cup in Uruguay in 1930 to the World Cup in Russia in 2018, this 88-year World Cup history is a living history of technology development.

Football evolution

The ever-rolling football touches the hearts of hundreds of millions of fans around the world. It is the focus of all eyes on the pitch. But few people will notice the story of the ball itself: in the past 88 years, its “evolution” has never stopped.

In 1930, in the simple stadium of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, the audience in the stands saw a rough surface, even a football that is obviously not round. As it was first held, many preparations seemed to be hasty. The game ball was determined by the organizing committee near the opening ceremony. When Argentina arrived in host Uruguay, it also caused a storm: The Argentine team asked the game to use their own ball. To this end the dispute over the two sides. Later, the referee made a compromise decision: The first half used the Argentine ball and the second half used the originally determined game ball.

The balls used in the early World Cup were made of leather, which has been the case for hundreds of years. Leather football leather outer layer, the inner circle is rubber, the ball is not that heavy, there is a big problem is the water absorption. In 1872, the football standard set by the British Football Association mentioned the weight when it was necessary to add the premise “when the game started”. Because during the game, the ball may double by weight water absorption.

The technical breakthrough in the problem of water absorption has been until 1982. Since 1970, the World Cup has a fixed manufacturer of balls: Adidas. Adidas used the latest waterproof sealing seam technology when designing the 1982 World Cup ball, significantly reducing water absorption. This is the last World Cup football made with leather. Since then, the football material has gradually upgraded. Polyurethane synthetic materials were used in 1986 and new composite foam materials were used in 1998. By 2014, the process has become extremely complex, with 6 layers of composite materials: a polyurethane foam surface layer, a closed-cell foamed plastic layer that prevents moisture from spreading, helps football to quickly restore the original surface fiber reinforced layer, increased elasticity of open-cell foamed plastic layer, the fifth layer with maximum pressure and the air-filled liner.

The 2018 World Cup was returned to the 1970 with the name “Telestar 18”. The first World Cup football produced by Adidas is the “Telestar”. In 1970, the international communication satellite was first used for live television. The design of the game ball is also specially designed to meet the needs of live TV. Previous footballs were all monochrome, but this time the designer used 12 black pentagons and 20 white hexagons. Black and white balls are easier to see on TV. The biggest highlight of “TV Star 18” compared to its “predecessors” is the addition of an NFC chip. The chip and corresponding software technology are provided by BlueBite. This chip is completely added to the audience, it doesn’t help the players and referees. Fans around the world have the opportunity to read the exclusive information of each ball through a smartphone, including its trajectory and the balling skills of the players. In terms of materials, "TV Star 18" is the world's first football made from bio-based vinyl extracted from sugar cane. This material is very flexible and environmentally friendly.

From listening to the ball to watching the ball

The World Cup is sport, but it is not just sports, it is also the carnival of the entire planet, super-scale performance. Watching the impact on the World Cup almost throughout the history of the World Cup. The 1970 World Cup was held in the high-altitude country of Mexico. In order to ensure the effect of live TV, many games are scheduled at 12 noon. But this can hurt the players, and the high temperature makes them complain.

The World Cup live broadcast began in the second year, when broadcasting was becoming a new and popular media. The World Cup was held under the leadership of Italian Prime Minister Mussolini. Football became the stage where he showed power to the world. Mussolini has almost all the important organizational tasks: He designed a blue jersey for the Italian team (this is what the Italian blue jersey we saw today), ordered to collect the top players with Italian blood in the world, organize players to close training in the mountains... It also includes one: the Italian radio station is going to broadcast the game live.

Twenty years later, by the time of the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, people were beginning to enter the television era. This year, people saw the scene on the World Cup for the first time on the black and white screen. Previously, TV stations were generally not optimistic about the ratings of football matches. It was the 1954 World Cup that established the status of sports events in the mass media.

In 1954, it was recorded. By the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the live TV broadcast began. At the time, there were rumors that thousands of tickets were returned (mostly German fans) because they could watch it on TV. On this year's TV screen, they saw Jost Fontaine, Lev Yassin, “Little Bird” Garrincha and Bailey under the age of 18. A Mr. S. Maier, who lives in West Sussex, wrote a letter to Time magazine: “Summer TV football feast! Science has brought us a lot of horrible things, the hydrogen bomb is one, but it is clear that it all ends.” But after the event, a Swedish Football Association official complained that the TV broadcast revenue could not match the lost on-site ticket revenue.

Alan Hart, former head of the BBC Sports Department, recalled that, in 1970, “new technologies helped us show the game what they have never seen before.” This year, the fans sitting at home can finally see the “Color World Cup”. Alan Hart recalled that during the year, they used slow-motion playback for the first time. The television inventor John Roger Baird’s grandson, Jennifer Roger Baird, recalls: “With the advent of color TV, the sport as entertainment has been fundamentally changed forever. With more information on the image, the commentator doesn't have to be as small as it is on the radio. He can focus on other aspects (such as the personal performance of a player).

In the next few decades, TV live broadcasts are constantly upgrading with the development of technology. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, there was another breakthrough in live TV: For the first time, the audience watched the HD World Cup, and they were also able to watch the World Cup on their mobile phones for the first time. In this year's World Cup, 29 cameras were used in each game, including high-speed cameras and helicopter aerial photography. This year's number of Russian World Cup cameras has reached 33, including 8 ultra-slow lenses and 4 extremely slow lenses. The BBC also launched 4K live and VR live broadcasts - fans can wear VR helmets to watch VR games through a special app.

Security and referee in the intelligent age

Before the era of intelligence, the main influence of technological development was football and television. In the era of intelligence, technology has begun to penetrate all aspects of the World Cup.

Such as security. At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, 3.5 million tickets were embedded for the first time with RFID chips with authentication information. When the fans enter the stadium, the on-site security system can quickly detect their information. In addition, this World Cup also uses a mobile fingerprint recognition system, the German police can quickly match his relevant information based on the fingerprints of the fans. In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, 30 Packbot military robots were deployed to perform security tasks. Packbot military robots have appeared on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, and have appeared in the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Of course, the most worth mentioning is the referee. In 1996, the BP machine was used in refereeing work. In the last decade, more and more “black technology” has begun to enter the field.

On June 16, 2018, in the match between France and Russia in the World Cup Group match of Russia, the referee Cunha changed the penalty with the reminder of the video assistant referee. This is the first achievement of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) technology after its first introduction to the World Cup. VAR is a hot technology on the football field in these two years. It has been used in Club World Cup, Confederations Cup and Bundesliga, Serie A and other major events, but it was the first time in the World Cup.

Technically, VAR is not complicated. Compared with the traditional game, add off-site video assistant referees. They can see all the information of 33 cameras in a special room. There are also two additional cameras that are specially prepared for them to determine if the player is offside. In the four cases of whether to score or penalty, the off-court assistant referee can remind the referee to watch the video playback and re-judgment.

The benefits of VAR are obvious. With the help of technology, the “false and wrong case” will be significantly reduced, to promoting the fairness of the game. Many people will remember the famous “Hand of God” event. On June 22, 1986, in the quarter-finals of Mexico World Cup in Argentina against England. Maradona use hand scored the ball into the goal, the referee judgment goals effectively. Later, the “Hand of God” was used to refer specifically to the situation in which the ball was scored by hand in the football match and was misjudged. Now that there is a VAR on the court, it can be expected that it is difficult to have the chance of “the hand of God”.

Of course, not everyone welcomes this new technology, and the voice of opposition has always existed. Real Madrid player Modric said that he has always “unable to understand VAR”. One reason is that watching video playback would delay the time, thus affecting the fluency of the game, also interfere with the players play. In August 2017, Serie A Spar in the match against Udinese, have two minutes, the referee is standing alone in the center of the stadium, through the headset and the off-site assistant referee, the judgment just made, then go to the side of the field to watch the video playback. Eventually he changed the verdict, but at this point the time has passed another minute. That is, the game was interrupted for three minutes. This is obviously a long wait for both players and their fans.

There is also a view that the occasional misjudgment itself is part of the charm of football. Former FIFA President Blatter has this view. He once said: “The misjudgment is the human side of football.” In the face of media talks about VAR, Blatter said: “The game will lose its appeal and you should allow the referee to make a mistake.” In his view, the introduction of VAR by FIFA is “very dangerous.” There is a question worth pondering here: To what extent does humans need the help of machines (technologies)? What does this help mean to humans?

In fact, in 2014, the World Cup in Brazil has introduced a similar “black technology”, which is the door line technology. FIFA initially opposed the introduction of this technology. Even at the 2010 IFAB (International Football Association Council, responsible for the development of FIFA football rules) meeting, the door line technology was also vetoed “permanent veto” with 6 votes in favor of 2 votes. Later, due to several misjudgments during the World Cup in South Africa, FIFA suddenly turned. They started to discuss whether to use the door line technology, and finally gave a positive answer.

The principle of the door line technology is also very simple, that is, the soccer track is captured by a plurality of high-speed cameras to determine whether the ball has crossed the goal line. When the ball completely crosses the goal line, the referee wears a “GOAL” message automatically sent by the system. The entire time is less than 1 second, so this technology does not interfere with the game like VAR. The reason for FIFA's opposition may be that they feel that the judgment of the goal does not require machine blending. Former UEFA President Platini is one of the opponents of the door line technology. He once said: “The money used for doorline technology is better for supporting grassroots football.” Apparently he felt that this is simply unnecessary waste of resources. The technology provided by GoalControl in Germany is expensive, each course installation requires approximately £170,000, each game operating costs also need 2500 pounds.

Big data forecast

During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, an octopus in the Oberhausen Aquarium in Germany became a global star. The octopus, named Paul, successfully predicted 13 of the 14 games during the 2008 European Cup and the World Cup. Enthusiastic netizens even gave the “Prophecy Emperor” PS a cover of “Time” magazine. By 2014, Paul was no longer in the world, and the emerging big data began to come in handy. Microsoft, Google’s technology giants, and investment banks at Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank have released their own big data forecasts. But their prediction levels are uneven, like Microsoft has successfully predicted all the top 16 and top 8, in the group stage of frequent explosions, the accuracy rate also reached 56.25%. The forecast of Deutsche Bank is wrong, according to its predictions, Brazil missed the top eight, England won the championship - and later proved to be completely wrong. This year's World Cup in Russia, big data forecast heat continues. Before the opening, a Russian physics student announced his predictions using the “neural network”: The top three in the 2018 World Cup will be Germany, Brazil and Argentina. He claims to have an accuracy rate of 80%. Sports data provider OPTA concluded that Brazil will have a 14.2% chance of winning, followed by Germany with a 11.4% chance of winning.

UBS, Europe's largest financial holding group, also gave forecasts. The company uses econometric tools for analyzing investment opportunities for forecasting. A team of 18 analysts considers the team strength and historical performance of each team, simulated 10,000 times with a computer and finally came to a conclusion: Germany, Brazil and Spain will be the top three in the World Cup, with a probability of winning 24%, 19.8% and 16.1% respectively.

With the current big data forecasting ability, the entertainment value seems to be bigger. Because they may not be able to believe. Goldman Sachs also released the 2018 World Cup forecast before the opening, it believes that Brazil will be expected to win, and predict that Saudi Arabia will defeat Russia. But in the opening match of the World Cup, Russia won Saudi Arabia by 5:0. Some netizens ridicule, believe in big data, it is better to believe that the octopus Paul of the year.

But on the team, big data has real value. In preparation for the 2014 World Cup and during the official competition, the German team used the Match Insights football solution provided by SAP. Match Insight can track information on the field in real time. For example, the mobile data of each player and the entire team, the percentage of possession, etc. Can also analyze the real-time formation changes, defensive range and defensive neutrals of the players in the game. Stefan Wagner, Managing Director of SAP Brazil Labs, said: “The world of sports is changing and technology is revolutionizing every field; Fan experience, athlete performance tracking, team management, tickets, venue operations. The German Football Association wants to be a pioneer in this industrial transformation. With the solution provided by SAP, we are calmly coping with this transformation and welcoming a successful World Cup.”

The story of technology, the story of mankind

When bidding for the 2022 World Cup, Japan also hit the technology card. These include translation headphones that help fans in all countries communicate, a “black technology” device that can get his information to the player on the field. In addition, they also intend to use technology to set up about 400 fan carnivals in more than 200 countries. Give the fans who can't get to the scene a carnival space.

At the time, the chairman of the World Cup bidding committee of Japan, Kenji Saki, said with confidence in the media interview in 2010: “You can think of the technology you will see from science fiction movies. but we have several stages, will cost total of 12 years to achieve it.”

Qatar, which ultimately won the right to host, is also inseparable from technology. One of the highlights of the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar’s World Cup Main Stadium is its air conditioning system. The country in the desert of Qatar is known for its high temperatures, and the temperature during the daytime in summer is often above 45 degrees Celsius, so the air conditioning system is particularly important, but in such a country stadium air conditioning, there is indeed a problem.

In the end, this problem was overcome by researchers at the University of Qatar's School of Engineering. They specially developed an air conditioning system for the main stadium. Used is different from the conventional cooling “Partitioning cooling.” The air conditioning system is powered by an energy center one kilometer away, cold water passes from the energy center to the stadium through the pipeline, lower the temperature of the air, then the cold wind is continuously sent to the venue. And the wind direction problem has been specially designed, the air-conditioning will not “disappear” because of the open air. A total of 500 air outlets were installed in the stadium, these air outlets ensure that the temperature of the stadium is stable at 23 to 25 degrees Celsius. The Caliph Stadium has thus become the world's first and largest open air-conditioned stadium.

The British “Guardian” commented before the air conditioning system was completed and installed: “This will be a huge engineering challenge, but it is worth dealing with. Because in the next century, as global temperatures warm, more and more sustainable air conditioning needs will arise. Not only in the football field, more and more people will find that they live in a hot and humid place, and the UK is no exception.” Lewis Mumford said in Technology and Civilization: “The world of technology is not isolated, nor is it self-contained. It interacts with various factors from a seemingly distant human environment.” The story between the World Cup and technology is the story of mankind: The story of human beings constantly improving their living environment. The story of human wisdom moving forward. The story of people and machines getting along with the game... This story will continue to be discussed.

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