Honigstein

The rise of “Scouting Apps“ and how you can get yourself discovered 

Words: Raphael Honigstein
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Montage

Raphael Honigstein looks at the emergence of the Internet and Apps as a scouting tool for major clubs around the world, and why uploading your clips to websites like Dream Football could make you the next big thing at the click of a button
Raphael Honigstein
Raphael Honigstein

Raphael Honigstein is The Red Bulletin’s expert football columnist and also writes for The Guardian and Süddeutsche Zeitung. 
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Dream Football, a new app for discovering talents, could be described as a digital tool for the democratisation of scouting. Ironically, however, it was the enduring pull of the analogue and the power of celebrity that stood out as Luis Figo launched the venture at Web Summit in Lisbon last week. On his short walk from the speaker prep area, the 44-year-old former Portugal and Real Madrid midfielder was accosted by dozens of fans, all clamouring for a quick selfie.

On stage, Figo was as smooth as he was as a player, explaining that the idea behind the app, co-founded with João Guerra, was to ensure “that no talent, regardless of playing level or geography, will be left behind.” Players of any level and age can upload clips of their best moments, gain traction by amassing views on the site and attract the attention of scouts and clubs, all for free. 

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On stage, Figo was as smooth as he was as a player, explaining that the idea behind the app, co-founded with João Guerra, was to ensure “that no talent, regardless of playing level or geography, will be left behind.” Players of any level and age can upload clips of their best moments, gain traction by amassing views on the site and attract the attention of scouts and clubs, all for free.

“The best-rated players will receive an additional valuation by Figo and Dream Football’s team of experts,” Guerra explained. There’s a successful case study, too, apparently. Matias Antonini Lui, a U17 Brazil international currently playing for Cagliari’s U19 team in Italy, was scouted after posting videos of himself on the Dream Football website, which was launched ahead of the app a few years earlier, Guerra said. 

Players from remote, traditionally under-scouted football markets such as Asia, Africa and Australia should in theory gain most by the chance to find an audience. Guerra cited the example of Rhain Davis, the nine-year old wonderkid signed by Manchester United from Brisbane, Australia, in 2007 on account of his Youtube videos. “The next Wayne Rooney” (New York Times) was last seen playing - very sparingly - for Altrincham FC in the fifth tier of English football. 

“Players from remote, traditionally under-scouted football markets such as Asia, Africa and Australia should in theory gain most by the chance to find an audience”

Late bloomers such as Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, a striker at eighth division Stocksbridge Park Steelers until the age of 23, or André Hahn (Borussia Mönchengladbach), who worked his way up from the fourth division in Germany to the Bundesliga in his early twenties, might be discovered a bit quicker thanks to the help of technology as well.

Whether Dream Football will become the main platform for emerging players and overlook platform, only time will tell, but there’s no doubt that the process for identifying promising players will continue to move online with the help of sites such as Wyscout. Schalke 04 recently did away with most of their traditional scouting network, replacing it with an army of sport science students specially trained to spot players who fit the club’s profile by watching games from all relevant leagues online.

They’re getting paid a nominal fee for their work but huge bonuses if the club end up acting on their recommendations. It’s a much a more efficient use of resources, a source at the Royal Blues explained, ending the need to fly dozens of observers around the globe to see games in person. 

An improved flow of information will speed up football’s internationalisation but interestingly enough; a small counter-movement is afoot as well. German champions Bayern Munich have, for example, de-globalised their scouting activities, with a new focus on Munich, surrounding areas and the state of Bavaria. The neighbourhood talent pool is considered to be so strong that fourteen scouts are exclusively employed to unearth gems in Bayern’s own backyard. 

This hyper-localised approach only makes sense in specific markets producing high quality players, and for a select number of  elite teams. You need the money and the clout to buy locally. For the vast majority of less exulted sides, the hunt for foreign-based hopefuls will both be easier and harder thanks to new technology. Increased visibility will bring increased options but also stoke competition and thus result in fewer bargains to be had. 

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10 2016 The Red Bulletin

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