Imagine your favourite team as a symphony. Barcelona as Mozart’s Jupiter symphony, Dortmund as Beethoven’s 5th, Juventus as Mahler’s 3rd and United as Shostakovich’s 10th.
Now imagine your favourite team playing together all listening to these timeless sounds.
An alien idea for now, but a recent study at the German University of Hannover revealed that players who simultaneously listen to music during a game play better football and improve their passing game. The research project was led by Professor Alfred Effenberg who dubbed it ‘SoundSoccer’. He even hired a local composer to create the music for the project.
This wasn’t the first study that tried to determine the affect of music on the mental faculties of humans. According to Die Welt, in 2009, a similar study from the University of Salzburg already showed that musicians who played together revealed similar brain activity. In other words, their brainwaves began to synchronize due to the music.
But could this concept apply to athletes? The results are remarkable.
The study consisted of two teams with five players each. Each team played 10 minutes with synchronized music and 10 minutes with asynchronized music. The last ten minutes were played without any music at all.
The players were unaware of the purpose of the study. They were only told to wear earpieces, which would transmit music during the training sessions.
Effenberg tried to explain the results in an interview with German football magazine 11 Freunde.
He said, “a moving rhythm can be conveyed acoustically.”
The results could potentially revolutionize the sport because the players listening to the synchronized music fared the best. Not only did they improve as a team, but also individually. They played quicker and with more fluidity. According to Die Welt, the team managed to pass the ball faster and include more players in the passing chain.
That makes all the more sense when compared to the asynchronized results. Effenberg said there was an overwhelming inclination for the footballers to play worse.
“There was a tendency that the asynchronized music disrupted the team’s ability to play together.”
Interactions on the field were better, when each player knew at which time (point) the others moved. A common timing basis in music could help because humans have a tendency to move to a rhythm as shown when dancing.
Of course, the use of music among athletes and coaches is nothing new. It’s quite common to catch players arriving at stadiums equipped with their super-noise-eliminating headphones, trying to enter their own special ‘zone’.
Germany national goalkeeper Manuel Neuer once said in an interview he practices self-centering with an unlikely choice: heavy metal.
“No one listens to Lady Gaga in the team bus. With AC/DC I cool myself down and I won’t risk a red card so that I weaken my team’s chances to win the game. The last man must always project strength and that is what I try to do.”
If you recall, Juergen Klinsmann made his 2006 die Nationalmannschaft listen to inspirational songs before a game, including Eminem’s ‘Lose yourself’ and Xavier Naidoo’s ‘Dieser weg’ (This Way). Only three weeks ago Atletico Madrid’s Falcao, who seemed unhappy with the music that was blaring, requested the stadium change it to Psy’s ‘Gangnam style’(Atletico later defeated Real Betis). Likewise, the German team went further than was expected of them with the crop of players they had at the time, finishing third in the World Cup.
“Music” certainly wasn’t the cause, but all of us can can attest to the ability of it to inspire and motivate. We’ve all probably witnessed how music synchronizes the brains of dancers. Dancers exhibit a harmony accomplished through music. They rarely follow visual cues and instead rely on the beats, counts and rhythms of a song. Moves are dictated by sounds and the timing of the routine is based in the music itself.
Now of course, football is considerably different from dance. The sport depends more on the sense of sight than hearing. The study also has its limitations. For one, the sample size was small. Second, the study needs to be replicated on many different levels (club, national, etc) to further determine the extent of its impact. Finally, the teams were made up of five players rather than the traditional eleven in outdoor soccer.
Certainly allowing players to use earpieces during live games to listen to music is futuristic at its best and a form of doping at its worst. It would surely blur and redefine the meaning of cheating. Would music end up on the shelf along with PEDs, blood transfusions, and drugs as banned substances?
While the research is compelling and may alter how teams choose to incorporate music into their training sessions, we’re still light years away from seeing this from happening on the pitch at the next EPL, Serie A, La Liga or Bundesliga games. Realistically, this may never gain acceptance unless a separate league is created, perhaps a variation of soccer called ‘musical football’.