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The Netherlands-Brazil: 1-1

The Sport Data Center wants to unravel the secrets of Dutch and Brazilian football, together with a diverse group of partners. Furthermore, the consortium will in both countries measure the health risks that arise from being bound to a wheelchair.

Two projects together

Coming years, Leiden data scientists will start a long-term cooperation with soccer clubs and with kinetic and data scientists in the Netherlands and in Brazil. They will work together in two projects of the Sport Data Center (SDC) that have now received funding. The SDC is a consortium of organisations active in data science, motion science  and sports, supported by the Ministry of Health and Sports as a Sportinnovator Expert Center.

Measure the dynamics

The first project is about soccer. Dutch soccer is known for its remarkable style, but that is certainly also true for the Brazilian way of playing. By measuring the dynamics, the distribution on the field and the preparation of the teams to an attack, and by analyzing the data, it may become clear which decisions contribute to successes or failures.

Coach in the cockpit

The researchers will apply the outcomes of the study in a so-called coach cockpit. Joost Kok, co-applicant of the fundings for Leiden University: ‘That is how we call the software application trainers and coaches can use to determine their strategy, to analyse playing behaviour and to put up personal training programmes.’

In a wheelchair, but active nonetheless

The other start-up project is meant to counter health problems with Brazilians and Dutch citizens in a wheelchair. They are on average 40% less active than people with no handicap. Consequently, they are more likely to develop overweight, obesity, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

‘But in both countries, measurements have been done differently, which is why the numbers are complementary’, says Kok. ‘This is how we hope to find the causes of an inactive lifestyle and what one could do against it. Apart from that, the amount of wheelchair users in Brazil are of course much bigger, so for us, it is nice to be able to use their data.’

‘With this information, we might be able to be each other’s mirror, learn from one another how we should measure. And then we can make the app Virtuagym, used by millions of people worldwide, suitable for those in wheelchairs.

Two postdocs for Leiden branch Sport Data Center

Both fundings have been awarded by the Dutch science fund NWO and its Brazilian counterpart. They enable Leiden University to appoint a postdoc researcher for both projects. ‘This means that in both cases we structural research for a few years’, thus Kok. The Dutch partners in both projects are related to the Sport Data Center, in which Dutch data scientists cooperate with sports scientists, clubs and foundations. The overall aim of the SDC is to be able to analyse big data for professional and recreative sports and for public health. Kok: ‘With the two fundings that we are now receiving, we can both strengthen our cooperation internationally and within the Netherlands.’


Within the Dutch part of the soccer project, apart from Groningen University (RUG), Leiden University, UMC Groningen (UMCG)and HAN Hogeschool Arnhem and Nijmegen, also some sports organisations are involved: KNVB and soccer clubs PSV, Vitesse en FC Groningen. The commercial party Inmotio Object tracking has been attracted for technical support. Main applicant is Koen Lenferink (RUG/UMCG). Co-applicant from Leiden University is Arno Knobbe. The full name of the project is The secret of playing football: Brazil versus the Netherlands.

In the research project on wheelchair users’ health, Dutch partners are the Vrije Universiteit (VU), Leiden University, Hogeschool Inholland, Hogeschool Amsterdam and UMC Groningen. Main applicant is Thomas Janssen (VU). Co-applicant is Wessel Kraaij (Leiden University). The full name of the project is From Data to Action: Promoting Active Lifestyle in Wheelchair Users with Spinal Cord Injury or Amputation.

Source: NWO

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