Defined as a philosophical system that holds that every rationally justifiable assertion can be scientifically verified, any mention of the term brings to mind the works of the renowned philosopher August Comte. It is not a philosophy often associated with the beautiful game and has faced both fear and skepticism. Real Madrid’s Jorge Valdano once lamented:

“The pitch is a jungle. And what happens in that jungle has hardly changed over the past 100 years. What has changed is what surrounds the jungle. A revolution has taken place there, an industry has sprung up. We need to protect the jungle, to defend it from civilization and all of its rules. Civilization should be kept out of the game: Keep off the grass!”

But the underlining principles of Positivism can be used to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the beautiful game.  Café Futebol aims to incorporate elements of the positivist philosophy in order to shed light on some of the lesser known and seldom discussed sides of football. Sides which Valdano may never have acknowledged.

Is a Red Card Ever Worth It? The Data Says Yes

Since its inception in 1970, the red card has come to signify the most brutal individual punishment a referee is capable of handing out. Having a teammate sent off almost always forces a team to fall back into their own half, relying on counterattacks that take advantage of space left by opponents. If they get lucky, maybe they’ll be able to hold on for a draw.

And yet, despite the severe penalty, players are still sent off regularly. [Continue Reading]

Myth Busting: Does Playing the Second Leg at Home Actually Matter?

Most football fan will tell you that when it comes to double-legged knockout tournaments, it’s better to play at home in the second leg than away. The idea is simple – the away team has the option (luxury) to play it safe (park the bus), aim for a draw, and then bank on winning the home game. Not the most elegant approach, but an effective one nonetheless. [Continue Reading]

Research Roundup Part 1 – The Best Sub Strategy, Will Financial Fair Play Ruin Man City, and Why You Shouldn’t Always Fire Your Coach

Welcome to the first installment of a new Café Futebol series – The Research Roundup. In these posts, we take a long look at the newest and most interesting soccer literature and let you know what’s going on. We walk through the papers and then highlight key insights and concerns we have.

In the first installment, we’ll take a closer look at research on three major questions:

  1. Is there an optimal substitution strategy?
  2. Will Financial Fair Play be good or bad for your Premier League team?
  3. Does sacking your manager really lead to a temporary increase in performance?

[Continue Reading]

Why ‘Three points for a Win’ is a Loss for Football 

Ask an economist how to solve a problem, and he’ll tell you incentives are the answer.  Punishment and reward are commonly used to exploit self-interest in the service of the common good. In football, they are harnessed in the interest of preserving the ‘beautiful game’.

But incentives do not always respond the way we expect them to. [Continue Reading]

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