Explaining the difference between men’s and women’s football

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TitleExplaining the difference between men’s and women’s football
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsPappalardo, L, Rossi, A, Natilli, M, Cintia, P
Secondary AuthorsConstantinou, AC
Date PublishedApr-08-2021

Women’s football is gaining supporters and practitioners worldwide, raising questions about what the differences are with men’s football. While the two sports are often compared based on the players’ physical attributes, we analyze the spatio-temporal events during matches in the last World Cups to compare male and female teams based on their technical performance. We train an artificial intelligence model to recognize if a team is male or female based on variables that describe a match’s playing intensity, accuracy, and performance quality. Our model accurately distinguishes between men’s and women’s football, revealing crucial technical differences, which we investigate through the extraction of explanations from the classifier’s decisions. The differences between men’s and women’s football are rooted in play accuracy, the recovery time of ball possession, and the players’ performance quality. Our methodology may help journalists and fans understand what makes women’s football a distinct sport and coaches design tactics tailored to female teams.

Short TitlePLoS ONE
Research Project: