Has Atletico Madrid coach German Burgos seen the future? Certainly, his appearance in the dugout at Getafe earlier this week sporting a pair of Google Glass “wearable computer” spectacles has caught much attention.
Burgos, who despite the christian name is actually Argentinian (an Argentinian footballer whose name is German? Surely a wind-up, no?), was using them to receive real time Opta-style stat feedback and, of course, watch the game at the same time.
He also looked ridiculous, as do all wearers of the curious little cyborg specs, but technology improves fast and many people have long been frightened of the potential implications of a world where everyone’s eyes are computers.
The implications too for the beautiful game, when players, coaches, referees and fans alike have all been Google Glassed, and are living in augmented reality, are huge.
Imagine when a referee can instantly log in, Formula One style, to Ashley Young’s view of the world, as he glimpses an outstretched shin somewhere on the far side of the pitch and instantly launches into a double front somersault with reverse pike? And it needn’t end there. How about tiny, hyper-sensitive shinpad-mounted microphones to provide real time snickometer evidence of whether any contact whatsoever has actually been made between defender and striker?
To this end, controversial penalty decisions could trigger the automatic deployment of powerful electro-magnets that prevents the entire, furious expletive-spitting XI from coming within a 10-metre circumference of the no-longer beleaguered ref? Or when the angry fan screaming tirades from the stand about a possibly incorrect decision, can simply rewind time and have a look at things from his no-doubt entirely unbiased perspective.
Life would be similarly transformative for the everyday fan, too. Imagine live, real time viewer voting where, when through on goal, a despairing Fernando Torres can ask the watching TV audience whether he should place the ball a) wide, b) over or c) just fall over it.
West Ham fans could choose to have Carlos Tevez’s head superimposed on Kevin Nolan’s body, or indeed to the entire starting XI, and while away their miserable afternoons at the Boleyn wistfully dreaming of days gone by, the occasional swathes of empty seats miraculously painted over with virtual reality fans.
Corporate entertainment could be instantly transformed too. Financier-filled boxes with their Korean client guests could have the words to popular chants automatically called up phonetically, alongside a brief summary of the rules, including how many points are awarded for a goal, intermittent reminders of the score, and which team is playing in which colour.
The potential is there to open the game to new markets, too. Nerdy sport-phobic computer geeks could be recruited to hack Matrix-like into opposition goalie specs, re-coding the ball to explode from the penalty spot in a hundred different directions.
Indeed, life would probably be toughest for goalkeepers. But ball height and trajectory mapping could inform any unfortunate halfway line lob victim keeper that they’ve got no chance, long before they begin that undignified hapless backward scurry back into their own billowing net.
For the uncertain striker, as a high ball comes looming over their shoulder, the onboard computer could scan online archive and say in an instant what Pele, Zidane or Gerd Müller would do in such a situation.
Of course there is the potential for a player-led social media revolution. Martin Skrtel’s outstretched fist punching the ball clear, instantly instagrammed from Edin Dzeko’s line of sight, by Edin Dzeko himself, the appropriate #injustice hashtags already in place.
The inconvenience of playing a game would no longer prevent Joey Barton from tweeting about Nietzsche as he did so. Now you could know in real time which particular passage of Thus Sprach Zarathustra had compelled him to drive his knee in to the back of Sergio Aguero’s thigh (“You must have chaos within you to give birth to dancing star,” of course).
For now, coaches may just be receiving real time statistical feedback, but imagine a not too distant future when Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce and Co can actually submit tiny electric shocks to any player who attempts to play a third consecutive pass along the ground.
The omnipotent corporate backers of the game have much to gain too. Public relations professionals could directly deliver dull, bland and pointless answers to post-match interview questions for players to simply read out in post-match interviews and press conferences (actually that one may not work).
The debate about technology in football rolls on and on but, thanks to German Burgos’s strange little specs, the future is already here. Welcome.