Brazil 2014

High-Tech World Cup Secrets From Italy's National Team

Balotelli ... Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli ... Mario Balotelli.
Marco Ansaldo

FLORENCE — The Italian national soccer team has landed in Brazil, and each player is carrying an extra card with them. It's similar to an ATM bank card, though instead of money it will give them access to a database where they can find any and all relevant information about the World Cup.

Manager Cesare Prandelli and his staff have set up profiles and videos about the team's opponents, schedules for games and training, information on the best positions to score a goal from a corner kick, and motivational speeches from the trainers. And it's all accessible via a small piece of plastic.

"In my day, we were given folders and leaflets, but now one card is enough," says Demetrio Albertini, a former midfielder for Milan who, as delegation head, has been working with the technical side of the team as well as with the players to prepare for the tournament.

This innovation gives a hint about the future of the soccer world's elite. And the Italian soccer federation developed yet another high-tech feature after the Euro 2012 experience — a special box where the climate of Brazil can be re-created. "We got to the final against Spain and the players were tired," says Albertini. "We don't want that to happen again."

After last year's Confederations Cup in Brazil, Prandelli realized the risks of the weather conditions. So the new device recreates the 35 ºC (95 ºF) heat and 70% humidity that the players will face in the tropical Manaus region of northern Brazil where they'll play their first games.

"Each player was closely studied for 20 minutes at a time," explains Giambattista Venturati, one of the athletic trainers on Prandelli's staff. "We were able to monitor four different things: taking their internal body temperatures, evaluating the physical perception, testing blood samples from their ears, and measuring their weight — taken both before and after the heat."

Measuring hearts and grass

Renzo Casellato, another trainer, says it's hard to predict how the players will ultimately react, and how much weight they'll lose, for example. "Everybody is different, but we have a very clear idea of what they'll lose in terms of salt and water," he says.

Sensors like these have become an essential tool to every coach heading to Brazil, more than anything to help prevent unforeseen illnesses and injuries. The players put the device onto their thighs for a TMG test which measures the contractile properties of muscles — that is, where they exert maximum force in as short a time as possible.

Other sensors designed with Milan's Polytechnic University help measure strength, and some trends in heart rate derived from general states of health, as well as the psychological aspect and motivation of the player at that moment.

There's also a GPS sensor that tracks the speed and precise movement of each athlete.

The team will have access to ice baths to combat fatigue and any minor injuries, plus a massive entourage that includes a chiropractor and nutritionist. Food is of the utmost importance to these athletes. At their pre-Brazil training camp in Florence, the team was separated into groups to make it easier to control what they ate and drank.

"We want to be able to predict the unexpected," Albertini says.

Well, here’s hoping Messi, Neymar or Ronaldo won't outsmart them, making all that technology useless. Skills like theirs aren't something science has figured out how to combat.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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