Sports scientist on World Cup disappointment
10 January 2023
Dr Alireza Monajati is course leader for the MSc in sport analytics at the University, and is also a football scientist for the Scotland Women's National Football Team.
The team recently lost in the second play off for the World Cup 2023, and the next focus is on the Euro 2025 tournament.
UEL News catches up with Dr Monajati after the play offs at the end of 2022.
How did you get the job with the Scottish women’s team and what does it involve?
I had previously worked with Pedro Martinez Losa when I was a consultant performance coach for FC Girondins de Bordeaux (women’s team), France, and also at London City Lionesses when I was head of performance there.
Two years ago, when Pedro Martinez Losa became the head coach of the Scottish female team, he rang me to offer me the role of football scientist. I accepted it immediately. My job in football science looks at the players' performance, strength and conditioning, post-match recovery, nutrition and the data management.
Before we hold our training camps, my job is to gather the data from every single club that we have a Scottish player in so when they arrive, we are ready to start immediately.
Based on that data, we know how to manage the first few days of training and during the camp in terms of nutrition, performing physical tests, managing their load, dealing with GPS data and recovery strategies.
Then after the camp, we gather all the data for the players and we share it with the clubs and consult with them.
It is an incredibly exciting and rewarding role, and we were so disappointed to just miss out on the World Cup finals recently after coming so close in the second play off final.
Can you tell us about your own football career?
When I was young, I used to play for the Iranian national team and I played in the Youth World Cup in Argentina in 2001 on behalf of my country.
I came to the UK in 2011 and studied strength and conditioning at the University of Greenwich, and did a PhD in exercise science working with female football players there. In the meantime I was working for the Millwall Lionesses Football Club, London City Lionesses Football Club, FC Girondins de Bordeaux, and then Crystal Palace Football Club.
Tell us about how you started the Sports Analytics course at UEL
We came up with the idea for the course almost three years ago. As I was also involved in professional football I knew the kind of transformation possible in sport through the use of big data.
There are courses in business analytics and market analytics, but we never had one for sport, so I put together the proposals and went through the course validation process.
It is still the only sport analytics course of its kind in the UK. The majority of students studying this course come from mathematics, business and computer science backgrounds because they have the necessary skills and then their passion is sport. We have a tennis player, a basketball player and volleyball players at the professional level on our course as well.
The students use data from real environments and so it is not just theory.
We look at how they can use the data to give advantages to players on teams and how to apply the data to get the best performance.
What kind of career options are there on this course?
There are a number of different careers options for this course. Graduates can go on to work for betting companies, or companies who directly handle data for many different kinds of teams. One of the companies that we are working with and some of our students are doing their project with have the data for 3,000 football games over the last season alone.
They can also go on to work directly for different sport clubs as performance analysts, or data analysts.
Sports journalism is also a popular avenue to go down working with big data. But 70 per cent of the skills learnt are transferable skills, so if you know to how to work with the data and apply the statistical analysis, that can be applied non-sport industries as well.
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