Players’ Visual Behavior in Elite Football: An Eye-Tracking Study

Footballer with Tobii Pro Glasses 2 analyzing visual behavior during a game.

Visual behavior, undeniably central in football, has been largely explored in lab settings. However, how do players actually shift their gaze during a real match? Geir Jordet, employing Tobii Pro Glasses 2, embarked on this unique journey to decode fixations amidst the real football frenzy. This article delves deep into this groundbreaking study.

Read more: Players’ Visual Behavior in Elite Football: An Eye-Tracking Study

The Significance of Players’ Visual Behavior

Football coaches and researchers unanimously affirm the critical role of players’ gaze patterns. Yet, the tangible areas of focus remain enigmatic. Where do players’ eyes linger? How does this influence their split-second decisions?

Previous Research Context

Traditionally, research aimed at discerning the differences in gaze patterns among players of varied skill levels, primarily within controlled lab environments. A recurring observation is that seasoned players exhibit prolonged fixations. However, few have ventured to understand players’ visual focus in an 11 v 11 setting. Notably, as players’ proximity to the ball increases, the number of fixations declines, redirecting attention to open spaces. Elevated pressure situations often witness players centralizing their gaze, leveraging peripheral vision for situational cues from teammates’ and opponents’ movements.

Geir Jordet’s Novel Approach

Jordet pushed the boundaries with his study titled, “What Do Football Players Look at? An Eye-Tracking Analysis of the Visual Fixations of Players in 11 v 11 Elite Football Match Play.” This research zoomed into the precise visual behavior of players within a representative football scenario. Specifically, it analyzed the duration and location of visual fixations.

Methodology and Participant Overview

Five male footballers, aged between 17 and 23, from two top-tier Norwegian football clubs participated. All boasted experience with Norway’s U-21 national team. Recording durations varied with three players being observed for 20 minutes and two for 10 minutes. To track their eye movements, the Tobii Pro Glasses 2 eye-tracker was employed.

Findings from the Field

Algorithms identified 2,832 fixations across five players. Midfielders, interestingly, elongated their fixation duration with more potential choices (ball, teammates, opponents). Yet, these fixations were relatively shorter than lab-based findings. Distinct visual behaviors between attacking and defensive phases were also identified, thus enhancing understanding of elite footballers’ vision during real match situations. Jordet emphasized that lab designs might fall short in capturing the dynamism players face during competitive matches.

Practical Implications

Upon detailed analysis, Jordet and his team pinpointed specific insights for practical application. For instance, the brief average fixation duration in real football scenarios (242.29 ms) implies the relevance of rapid fixations in the game environment. Training drills should enable players to quickly locate multiple information sources under time constraints, simulating actual match dynamics. Furthermore, Jordet highlights that closed drills, like pass-and-play, executed in non-representative settings, might diminish visual fixation and search strategies employed in 11 v 11 games. In essence, coaches must adapt training drills considering how visual fixations and search strategies vary per exercise conditions.

Looking Ahead

Further research is pivotal to crystallize players’ gaze behaviors in specific defensive or offensive contexts. This would, in turn, pave the way for crafting drills tailored to these insights. While many drills inherently embed these elements, leveraging advanced eye-tracking tech, like the Tobii Pro Glasses 2, can redefine training approaches.

As we anticipate more such immersive studies, it’s evident that understanding players’ gaze dynamics can revolutionize coaching strategies. Stay tuned for more on Sportbrein’s endeavors with this eye-tracking tech!


Bjørndal, Christian & Aksum, Karl Marius & Jordet, Geir & Magnaguagno, Lukas. (2020). What Do Football Players Look at? An Eye-Tracking Analysis of the Visual Fixations of Players in 11 v 11 Elite Football Match Play. Frontiers in Psychology. 11. 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.562995.

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