A couple of years ago I had a plan to compile a book about football in the future which included art, fiction and factual writing all together in one volume. Unfortunately it didn’t quite get off the ground. I came across this though in my old writing archive and thought I’d put it out there, if only to give all you readers a bit of a laugh…… My vision for what football could look like in the year 2165 – 148 years into the future
Jackson cursed his luck. What use was this talent now; this ability to not just kick a ball, but to master it, to make it do exactly what he wanted. A few years ago he could have been a millionaire, but now there was nothing. He knew what to blame…. analytics.
Analytics had quantified almost every aspect of the game. Not just crude measures like goals, assists, dribbles and chances created, but every miniscule movement both on and off the ball. A vast data-bank had been created of all these attributes. Unlike the past though this was not just used as a tactical aid, but ended up recreating the sport anew. Holographic technology could render lifelike avatars of the players, the pitch, even stadia, while advanced probability theory was used to predict how individual players would react to any given situation.
Football players suddenly found themselves in as much demand as factory workers when the robot assembly line was installed and shop assistants when they brought in automated checkouts. The salaries which had grown year after year collapsed virtually overnight. There would be no more stories of the bacchanalian excess which had both shocked and enthralled the public.
The ones now receiving the biggest money (though still modest by the footballer standards of the era just ended) were the programmers, mathematicians and analysts who operated firmly in the background. Many of these were now engaged on the next grand project; to methodically and painstakingly recreate the great players of the past.
Using enhanced archive footage and old data-sets they were bringing the greats back from the realms of history. The first had been Pele. The biggest challenge was the lack of archive footage, not to mention the poor quality of what did exist. This hindered the ability to take detailed measurements of his attributes and off-ball movement and those involved would admit, though never in public, to undertaking some educated guesswork. Still, the final result was visually stunning and when a prototype of holographic avatar had been unveiled at the newly re-built 200,000 capacity Maracana Stadium the assembled FIFA dignitaries – invited especially for the occasion – had reacted with shock “it’s like Pele has stepped out of a time machine” one was heard to utter as they watched with shock and delight as the recreated great, back from the dead, performed a litany of tricks for the crowd, before taking part in a virtual game where he lined up with a holographic re-creation of the current human Brazil side.
Of course there were some inconsistencies, but in the press conference after the game Chief software engineer Hal Barnes, a grey-haired bespectacled man in his late 40s with a fondness for teaming his lab-coat with a pair of battered trainers, told assembled reporters that with the lessons learned from the Pele experience and the greater amount of data on players from later eras, which includes medical data, data gathered on the training ground and psychological reports, future recreations will be even more realistic.
This was the beginning of the end for football as a sport played by humans, against other humans. For a while the human league persisted, but as Hal and his team created more legends; Cruff, Messi, Ronaldo, Le Tissier the appeal of the holographic virtual league grew stronger, not least when there came an option for spectators themselves to join in the action on the pitch by donning a special suit which replicated their movements via an avatar. Fitness and technique were not an issue as the avatars could compensate by boosting a players natural attributes. The worlds of video-gaming and football were finally fused together. There was not one football league, but thousands with hundreds of thousands of games being played simultaneously.
Jackson glumly unzipped the suit. Somehow scoring the winner in the World Cup final left him feeling deflated. It was nothing compared to scoring for real, like he had done in the park, on real grass, so many years ago.