How a football app used data to challenge the best academies in Europe
To compete with 15 pro club academies in one of Europe’s most prominent youth tournaments, Tonsser formed a team of undiscovered French talents. Arnaud Deffuant, Market Lead at Tonsser in France, was on the sideline to witness the hysteria:
Arnaud Deffuant gave this report:
“Before the first game of the tournament, people were expecting that we would get crushed. The game was against Paris FC. They are the partner club of the tournament, and it was the first year that their pro academy participated in the tournament.
Some of the players on our team had already been observed by academies in the past, but they hadn’t managed to convince the clubs to select them. These players wanted a second chance in football, and before the first game you could see it in their eyes that they just wanted to get on that pitch and prove to everyone that they were wrong.
We ended up winning 2–1, and instantly everything changed. It was crazy. It took me 45 minutes to get off the field, because everyone wanted to know the story of this team.
16 teams participated in this year’s Vinci Cup; an elite youth tournament seen as a landmark for all professional football academies. 15 of the teams were from pro clubs such as FC Porto, Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain, and then there was our team; the Tonsser All Stars coming out of nowhere, sponsored by adidas and created by data from an app. It was very exciting to everyone, and we quickly became the talk of the town.
Using the scouting tool that we have developed at Tonsser it felt amazing to browse through the data of thousands of players and identify talented players for each position. And the magical thing about the Vinci Cup was seeing the data becoming an actual team. That was the most amazing thing. When you have seen all these players in stats, numbers and names, and then suddenly you meet the players in person, and they get to know each other and start becoming a team. That’s where the magic happens.
The players understood that they needed to get to know each other quickly in order to create a team spirit. I was surprised because some of them were just 14 years old, but they understood this from the beginning. So they started talking to each other. You could hear them saying; “I am right footed, and I like to move this way on the pitch.” It was really great.
At first the scouts at the tournament were all skeptical about the quality of the team, but the first game that we won changed everything. So scouts came back to watch the second game, and again we played very well. At this point the story started spreading, and all the scouts were suddenly interested in our team because none of our players had been discovered yet.
Before the tournament I was a bit worried. We were going up against pro academies, and all the teams playing here had such a high level. The academy teams had already started their seasons a few weeks earlier, and they were training together every day. So of course, you are a bit stressed, and I must admit that before our team played the first game, I was shaking like a leaf.
In the end, we finished 11 out of 16 teams, in front of teams like Manchester City and Stade Rennais. It just shows you that there are so many undiscovered talents out there with the quality to play at the highest level.
Some players from our team are being observed by scouts this season. Some of them are already having trials in pro academies, and hopefully one or two will join the pro club academies. These players were selected through data and they created their own chances during the tournament. It was incredible to witness.”