x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Olympics: Scout a team? Turn to YouTube

Struggling to find the latest information about an upcoming opponent is so last millennium. Paul Oberjuerge says certainly since YouTube, finding out anything you need to know about just about any club is child's play

Edinson Cavani, right, and Luis Suarez have finally gotten the chance to show how they fit in with a bunch of 23 year olds. A 6-4 win by the Uruguay side against Chile makes the formula look successful so far.
Edinson Cavani, right, and Luis Suarez have finally gotten the chance to show how they fit in with a bunch of 23 year olds. A 6-4 win by the Uruguay side against Chile makes the formula look successful so far.

Struggling to find the latest information about an upcoming opponent is sooo last millennium. Since the dawn of the internet, and certainly since the popularisation of YouTube, finding out anything you need to know about just about any club is child's play.

Want to see Lionel Messi's first 234 goals at Barcelona? A 12-minute clip of every one of them is a few clicks away. (Turns out he usually uses his left foot, and from inside the area.)

Even footballers of modest talents are likely to have a highlight video, on line, assembled by agents or fans. Clubs happily post video of their exploits, perhaps conscious that fans with smartphones recorded much of the action, anyway.

If opponents want to study it, second by second, well, easy.

However, it was not always so simple to assemble mountains of information on an opponent, and those of us of a certain age recall when teams and coaches resorted to spying, a practice which was common, perhaps even rampant, if the most paranoid of the complaints had merit.

American football, in particular, was rife with charges and counter-charges of spying, of wiretapping, of "enemy agents" hiding in trees or even aboard "suspicious" dirigibles that floated over as a team ran plays.

Two of the infamous master spies were the late George Allen and Al Davis.

The Dallas Cowboys suspected Allen, then of the Los Angeles Rams, of sending an agent to secretly film a training session.

Apparently a Rams scout was, in fact, in the vicinity, and the Cowboys complained to league officials. The Rams soon after alleged that they had spotted a Cowboys scout, with binoculars, perched in a eucalyptus tree outside their training facility.

The NFL took no action.

Davis, the dark lord of the Oakland Raiders, was thought to have bugged the changing room of the opposition teams at his home stadium, and an oft-repeated (and probably embellished) story has Harland Svare, of the San Diego Chargers, losing his cool during a strategy session and shouting at a light bulb: "Damn you, Al Davis! Damn you! I know you are up there!"

The coda to that story? When told about Svare's charges, Davis, presumably with tongue planted in cheek, allegedly said: "It wasn't in the light bulb. I'll tell you that much."

We don't hear many of those stories anymore, aside from the occasional complaint of "sign stealing" in baseball, a practice of marginal use, anyway.

Thus, in the Information Age, it was unusual, but in this case understandable, when coaches of the UAE Olympic football team last week privately expressed consternation about their lack of information involving the Uruguay Olympic side.

This was of paramount importance to the Emiratis because Uruguay are their first opponents at London 2012, on July 26.

The issue was not an inability to properly surf the net; it stemmed from the simple fact that the South Americans had not played a match since adding the formidable forwards Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani to the mainly Under 23 team.

Some additional context: all of the friendlies played by the UAE Olympic team have been telecast, live, back to the Emirates, allowing Uruguay (or anyone) to compile mountains of information on them if they wish.

Late last week, Uruguay's complete team, including the Liverpool and Napoli strikers, finally played a match. Mahdi Ali and his staff now know what Uruguay look like, with Suarez and Cavani included.

If knowledge is power, but it might also be a bit troubling in this case.

The duo settled in with their younger compatriots in fine fashion. Suarez scored three goals and Cavani two in a 6-4 victory over Chile in Maldonado, Uruguay.

That sort of production perhaps is no surprise, given that Suarez scored 11 goals for Liverpool last term, despite a lengthy midseason ban, and Cavani fired home 23 for Napoli, the third-highest total in Serie A.

Something will give when these teams meet. In six games of final-round qualifying for the Olympics, the UAE conceded only four goals, total.

Theirs is a defence-first side, and stopping Suarez and Cavani will be Job 1 for the UAE.

Of course, they knew that before seeing the "Uruguay 6:4 Chile" video. But knowing how those two interact with their new teammates, that has real value.

Thanks to modern information systems, which eventually yield results, the sports planet offers a more level playing field than ever.

No tree climbing is required.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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