Distance Traversed: a 1930 perspective

1930 is a significant year for those interested in the notational analysis of sport performance.
I have written about Lloyd Messersmith’s research in basketball in the United States. In 1930, he was developing a real-time measurement apparatus to quantify the distance traversed by basketball players. He published his first data in 1931 with his colleague Stephen Corey.
Today, Jurryt van de Vooren has shared news of a notation project in France from November 1930.
Jurryt’s primary source quest took him to the Delpher Newspaper Archive and a copy of the Het Vaderland paper. In it he found reference to an article in the L’Auto newspaper.

From this, Jurryt tweeted:

The red trace is the reported distance traversed by a football midfielder, Lafarge, playing for Stade Français against a touring team from Prague, the Bohemians.
Jurryt suggests that this one of the first examples of a ‘heatmap’ used to visualise distance traversed. In Dutch, Jurryt reports:

Erg interessant is dat L’Auto een grafische voorstelling afdrukte van de looplijnen van Lafarge – in 21-eeuwse jargon een heatmap genaamd. Hiermee werden bijzonder interessante conclusies getrokken: ‘Deze middenvoor is tijdens den wedstrijd geen enkele maal buiten den middencirkel op eigen terrein geweest. Merkwaardig is het voorts uit deze grafische voorstelling te zien dat hij ook nooit dichter dan het strafschoppunt bij het vijandelijke doel is geweest.’

My translation of this is:

It is interesting that L’Auto printed a graphical representation of Lafarge’s movement pattern – in 21st century jargon, a heatmap . This led to the conclusion: “This midfield player did not leave the center circle for the entire game…

The notation in L’Auto reports that Lafarge ran a total of 2500 meters (1570 metres first half, 930 second half).

Jurryt and I have been unable to find the L’Auto article and so we are relying on a secondary source in a Dutch newspaper. As yet I have been unable to uncover any record of the game other than a Worldfootball listing of some of the Bohemians squad. Worldfootball lists two Stade Francais players for that season (one of them, Henri Pavillard played for France fourteen times between 1928 and 1932, including the 1928 Olympic Games).
L’Auto was the newspaper that started the Tour de France cycling race in 1903. A wikipedia entry suggests that the race leader’s maillot jaune (introduced in 1919) reflected the publication’s use of yellow newsprint. After the Second World War, L’Auto became L’Équipe.
Photo Credits
The French football team on the way to the 1930 World Cup (Paille, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Henri Pavillard (Footballdatabase)


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