Steve McClaren: "We are trying to close the gap".

Last Thursday evening FIFA Museum Ambassador Pascal Zuberbühler welcomed former England national team coach Steve McClaren and FIFA football expert Chris Loxston as part of our Cultural Programme – And they brought plenty of personal anecdotes and technical knowledge with them.

In the first live talk of the year, Zubi and his guests, who are all regular members of the technical study group at FIFA tournaments, delved deep into the world of data analysis.

Asked about his first years in coaching, Steve McClaren recounted his time at Manchester United, where he was assistant coach to Sir Alex Ferguson from 1999 to 2001. He recognized the importance of data analysis in professional football early on. After all, the more information a coach has at his disposal, the better decisions he makes. With a smile, he goes on to explain what Ferguson once told him: "If you make 7 correct decisions out of 10, you're a good coach. I usually make 9 or 10 right decisions, that's why they call me a great coach."

Impressions from the event

Both guests agreed that data analytics has made huge strides in recent years, both in club football and at FIFA. Chris Loxston recalled when he started at FIFA in late 2017 and was the only data analyst at the World Cup in Russia. In stark contrast to that was a video sequence showing analysts at work at this year’s Club World Cup Final: An entire row in the stands was filled with FIFA data analysts. Then one row down were analysts from the two finalists, Chelsea F.C. and SE Palmeiras. At FIFA, Loxston is leading a team of more than 50 people at the moment that includes not only analysts, but also data technicians, data scientists and technical assistants.

Finally, host Pascal Zuberbühler asked what it takes to make it as a data analyst in professional football. "A love for the game," says Chris Loxston. "And an intrinsic conviction that you're doing your part to help the team succeed. Because no one will thank you," he adds.

Before heading to the Sportsbar 1904 for some food and drinks, the guests had a chance to ask some questions. When asked why FIFA invests so heavily in data analysis, Steve McClaren answered as follows: "We are trying to close the gap between Europe and the rest of the world. When information is available to all 211 member associations for free and on equal terms, we level the playing field."

The next live talk with Pascal Zuberbühler at the FIFA Museum will take place on May 19 with Germany's 1990 World Champion Lothar Matthäus.