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Rio 2016

8th August 2016

Rio 2016: The Brazilian Men’s Olympic Soccer Team NOT as Talented as you Thought?
With players like Barcelona’s Neymar in the squad, the Brazilian Men’s soccer team is at very short odds to take out the gold at Rio.  Players of this caliber are often deemed to be ‘freaks’ on the football field, and this is credited to the abundance of their natural talent.  But is there more to their success than that?
Let's take a look at the line up for the 2016 Brazilian Men’s Olympic soccer team:

- Taken from wikipedia

Do you notice anything interesting? Let’s take a closer look:
There is a huge skew here in the athlete’s month of birth towards the first half of the year.
In fact - eleven of the eighteen players were born in the first four months of the year; fifteen in the first six months.
Many sports use the calendar year to group players into teams and competitions.  This means that a six year old born in January will come up against a six year old born in December of the same year.  A few months age difference may not seem like much, but in a young child this could be enough for them to become a stand-out player in their team due to the extra months of physical development.  This can lead to the better/more developed child to be selected into development squads – Giving them access to better quality coaching and more hours of practice.  All of a sudden, a few months of extra development as a young child has accumulated into all the practice, skill development, and opportunities required to make it as an elite athlete. This is termed the ‘Mathew effect’ in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers.
So maybe the Brazilian men’s Olympic soccer team is made up of gifted, naturally talented, ‘freaks’ of the soccer field.  Then again, maybe they are just benefactors of mere circumstance.  But either way, if you too are like me and failed to qualify for the national soccer team these Olympics – don’t feel too hard on yourself.  Chances are you weren't born at the right time of the year.
- Dane.

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