Roof Top Football: Dutch innovations on football pitch

March 18, 2014 - 3:04:56 am

By Armstrong Vas

The idea of football match on the roof top of a building will be shot down as bizarre and impossible in most places. But not for innovative Dutch. They have made it happen.

Welcome to the Netherlands city of Utrecht, home to Faja Lobi KDS, an amateur club playing in the sixth level of eight-tier amateur division of Dutch Football League. The club plays all its home matches on the artificial turf on the roof top of a parking lot of a super market store.

The football field at Faja Lobi KDS is one of the several innovative ideas which the Dutch are using in various walks of life as they aim to utilize the limited land resources in the best possible way in a small country spread over an area of 33,800 sqkm and with a population of 16,839,786.

The idea to construct a football pitch materialises out of a necessity say officials of IKEA, the company that constructed the artificial turf pitch on the roof top.

In the beginning of 2012, IKEA and the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands gave the go-ahead for the expansion of the IKEA store in Utrecht. The project was special because due to the limited space available in the area, different elements had to be arranged in a multilayered way, especially the solution for the two fields with FIFA 2 classification for soccer club Faja Lobi KDS on the roof of the IKEA parking house, says John van de Weg of Knevel Architecten.

The soccer fields have been executed with light layers for water storage instead of a traditional heavy package between the roof deck and synthetic turf top layer. Windbreak cloth is placed up to a height of seven meters along the roof edges around the soccer fields, he adds.

The out-of-the-box concept is one of the several initiatives the three-time FIFA World Cup runners-up have launched in football.

The country known for its tulips, chess and wind mills have devised innovative solutions in many walks of life — water control to protect half the country against the risk of flooding is one of them. 

Living in a densely populated delta below sea level, the Dutch were forced centuries back to develop knowledge and experience in finding high-quality, sustainable and affordable solutions to protect delta areas and enable life.

Innovations have had an impact on football too. The Dutch football is also pioneers of the influential tactical Total Football which spiced up the Jogo Bonita at the 1974 World Cup.

The country home to top clubs like Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord is set for yet another wave of technological advances in football.

The countries top clubs all have integrated new innovative training methods to excel and break new grounds.

Ajax, where Total Football took birth, is using SmartGoals in their training methods at their youth academy.

SmartGoals as a coaching tool, which will be officially launched next month, aims to make training a fun filled one.

Fun is the key aspect of SmartGoals. Fun equals motivation and motivation equals development. It improves skills like; overview, technique, speed, coordination, reaction and communication. That is why SmartGoals are suitable for everyone at every level. The First team of Ajax Amsterdam uses a prototype of SmartGoals twice a week, says Ralf van Oosterhout of SmartGoals.

SmartGoals helps to create fast dynamic football with your team. SmartGoals can be used to devise complete training sessions with warming-up exercises, moves and skills training, passing and receiving, positional games, fitness training, finishing exercises and small team matches, Van Oosterhout explained.

Everyone can work with the SmartGoals, no computers, laptops or tablets are required. With the SmartRemote controlling the SmartGoals is as easy as zapping through the channels of your TV, he added.

It excites players, it challenges players and you can use it in so many ways at every level, says Rene Meulensteen coach at Fulham FC.

Ajax are not the only club which is using the technology advances in their pursuit for excellence, PSV Eindhoven is the other one.

At the PSV Field Lab a bib enables heart rates to be monitored in real time.

The potential applications of real-time positioning and heart-rate reading go beyond cleverer training and improved soccer schooling.

The system can easily and automatically determine the speed and even the acceleration of the players. A new feature of this Field Lab at PSV is the bib that enables heart rates to be monitored in real time. Previously this data could only be read after the training session, says Peter Rovers, Manager Marketing, Media, Merchandising and Business Development at PSV Eindhoven.

It allows the club trainers, to adjust the physical exertion training programme to the individual. It’s all a matter of cutting the programme to the strain a particular person can accommodate. It helps reduce injury due to overexertion, the official added.

The research is investigating how top soccer players use their eyes, and it has become clear that the talent that younger soccer players possess can be revealed to a large extent to where they look during the game, Rovers said.

This could result in being able to recognise talent that much more quickly. PSV expects these advances to help the club’s youth development players make the move to the first team more quickly, and then the investments will be rewarded, he added.

The Dutch are continuously on the lookout for innovation in all walks of life and researchers attached to universities young and old are constantly working on projects to give the country an edge in various sectors.

At the sports and medicine department of Utrecht University a group of researchers is working on the project to identify the cause of the hamstring injuries, the common one for football, and to take preventive steps to minimise or reduce the hamstring injuries.

The country also aims to mix sports and technology for the greater success in international sports events and also an active lifestyle for its citizens.

It has set up an Olympic Plan to gain a structural position among the world’s top ten sporting nations by 2028. As part of the plan, they have set up innovative field-labs/InnoSportLabs, which mix science and technology for sports excellence.

InnoSportLabs has been launched in 12 sports namely athletics, archery, bobsleigh, volleyball, table tennis, handball, wheelchair basketball, badminton and boxing, while the football and hockey one is at the construction stage.

A field-lab/InnoSportLab for sport innovation is a research and development location in a real-life sports setting. Businesses can co-create and/or install new product prototypes or production models in the field-lab where the end-users can use and test them as part of regular sports activity. A lab manager and embedded scientist are part of the set up, informed Florence Bongers Project Manager at IPC Sports and Technology.

Although no football specific InnoSportLabs has been set up yet, the plan is to have one in the near future as Dutch clubs aim to gain an edge in the highly competitive winner takes its all football market.

The Peninsula

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