SciSports: Learning football kinematics through two-dimensional tracking data

Anatoliy Babic, Harshit Bansal, Gianluca Finocchio, Julian Golak, Mark Peletier, Jim Portegies, Clara Stegehuis, Anuj Tyagi, Roland Vincze, William Weimin Yoo

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SciSports is a Dutch startup company specializing in football analytics. This paper describes a joint research effort with SciSports, during the Study Group Mathematics with Industry 2018 at Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The main challenge that we addressed was to automatically process empirical football players' trajectories, in order to extract useful information from them. The data provided to us was two-dimensional positional data during entire matches. We developed methods based on Newtonian mechanics and the Kalman filter, Generative Adversarial Nets and Variational Autoencoders. In addition, we trained a discriminator network to recognize and discern different movement patterns of players. The Kalman-filter approach yields an interpretable model, in which a small number of player-dependent parameters can be fit; in theory this could be used to distinguish among players. The Generative-Adversarial-Nets approach appears promising in theory, and some initial tests showed an improvement with respect to the baseline, but the limits in time and computational power meant that we could not fully explore it. We also trained a Discriminator network to distinguish between two players based on their trajectories; after training, the network managed to distinguish between some pairs of players, but not between others. After training, the Variational Autoencoders generated trajectories that are difficult to distinguish, visually, from the data. These experiments provide an indication that deep generative models can learn the underlying structure and statistics of football players' trajectories. This can serve as a starting point for determining player qualities based on such trajectory data.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1808.04550
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

This report was made for the Study Group Mathematics with Industry 2018


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