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Excerpt - from demo Chapter 1

It was in Hungary that several major advances with football data were made, starting in 1922. The Hungarian FA had only formed 21 years earlier, but already the national team had played at the 1912 Olympics though the Great War caused the association great damage. They were barred from attending the 1920 Olympics in Belgium. Despite these set-backs, football grew in popularity and a dedicated sports newspaper, Nemzeti Sport was launched, three times a week and then daily as circulation quickly grew. Many sports were covered, but football was the main focus. In November 1922 Nemzeti published its first ‘Match Graph’ to illustrate the game between Hungary and Austria in Budapest. It was one of the most played international fixtures of the time, this was the countries ninth meeting in three years. On this occasion the visitors triumphed 2-1. At first glance, the match graph resembled the read out of a heart monitor with cycles of peaks and troughs travelling across the page, left to right.

What this actually showed was the movement of the ball up and down the pitch in timed intervals. When the chart reached an extreme at the top or bottom of the page it was an attempt at goal. When goals were scored a small icon indicated a score. The charts were prepared for each half an instantly conveyed the balance of play, the pressure leading up to each attempt on goal and totals of attempts made. Used mainly for matches involving the national team, the popularity of these graphics soon elevated them to front page status, an intriguing addition to the written reports, especially in lieu of any match photos.

Still one of the most appealing aspects of this work, a century later, is the fact that the chart flows, just as the game does itself. Rather than the snapshot nature of many investigations, this allows the viewer to see a whole match in a single image and you could follow the play with a finger tracing the ebbs and flows.

In 1925 the paper proudly announced that the use of such graphs had spread to Sweden, Italy and beyond. “When we created the graph, we knew that what we did had sport-historical importance.” The unearthing of these visualisations also pre-dates the work carried out by Lou Hofland in the Netherlands by thirty years. [see chapter 4 for details].

In the 1930s a second innovation sprang from the pages of Nemzeti Sport – the ‘Target Table’. At a time when counting of shots was being experimented with, the paper was able to expand on the simple concept and show where the shots ended up. With an illustration of goalposts at the centre, the accuracy of shots were scattered in and around the target area. Furthermore the ‘tokens’ to denote each shot were shaded in ways to show goals, saves, and even the strength of the shot – classified as ‘power’, ‘semi-weak’ and ‘really weak’. In this example (below), taken from the Hungary v Italy match of May 1936 (and a preview of the World Cup Final two years later), it is easy to see that Hungary had both many more attempts (31 to 7) and many more on target (14 to 5) but the Italians took their chances and won 2-1. Guiseppe Meazza scored the winning goal after 77 minutes, a powerful shot, low to the goalkeeper’s left as can be seen in the ‘table’.

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