Mittwoch 19.02.2014, 1. Fussball - Bundesliga Saison 13/14 - in Dortmund,
BV Borussia Dortmund   

Borussia Dortmund GmbH & Co. KGaA
Rheinlanddamm 207-209
44137 Dortmund

The Footbonaut - Innovative Training Technology at Borussia Dortmund

A High-Tech Machine for Black and Yellow High-Tech Players

Welcome to the Footbonaut, a half computer, half robot machine, and one of the most advanced facilities for individual football training. It's not just for the pros like Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; even the BVB youth teams make regular use of this state-of-the-art equipment.

Today, we have an appointment with Dustin Plöger and Luc Dabrowski, both players from the U10 team and frequent visitors to the Footbonaut. "We're here almost every week," says Luc. "Usually for 30 or 45 minutes in small groups." Quick rotations are essential because the Footbonaut is all about individual training. Man versus machine – that's the principle. And spoiler alert: the machine clearly has the upper hand!

Dustin and Luc (U10) versus Borussia's training robot
Man versus machine – that's the principle.

The device itself is quickly explained. At its center is a square, 14 x 14 meter artificial turf area, surrounded by a metal framework with 72 openings, 18 on each side, nine each at the top and bottom; each opening is a target area. In the center of each side, there's a ball-shooting machine, to be precise, two – one at the top, one at the bottom. Eight ball-shooting machines in total. Which one fires next, hence where the ball comes from, at what height it comes, with what speed it comes, with what spin it comes – all of this is unknown to the player standing in the center of the artificial turf area and waiting. They wait first for an acoustic signal, then for the ball, and finally for a light signal. For one of the 72 fields, whose border lights up, and into which the player must shoot the ball.

The machine emits peculiar noises

Dustin and Luc stood together in the center circle. The machine emitted peculiar noises, a mixture of squeaks and whistles, akin to R2D2, the metal droid from "Star Wars," engaging in a conversation with Luke Skywalker. Then, the machine began feeding passes to the two U10 players. Their task was complex. They had to anticipate, react quickly, receive the balls, process them swiftly, and play them as accurately as possible into the target field.

This continued precisely until the program set by the coach had been completed. Then, the lights dimmed, and a mechanical voice croaked, "Game Over." In the background, the computer analyzed Dustin and Luc's training performance. The speed of their actions, their hits, and misses were processed into data. In the end, a piece of paper with numbers provided insight into whether they had performed well or not. And numbers, as the saying goes, don't lie.

The speed of their actions, their hits, and misses are processed into data.

The two U10 talents enjoy coming to the Footbonaut. "The training is mega fun," says Dustin. "And you notice that you improve technically and learn to play accurate passes even under pressure." They explain that it's particularly challenging "when the ball comes very hard or as a bounce." Sometimes, one of the coaches stands in the center circle. As a disruptive element. As a quasi-opponent. Then the task is: control the ball, dribble past the opponent, aim for the target area - and score!

The training is really exhausting.

No wonder a session in the Footbonaut tires the boys out. "The training is really exhausting," says Dustin. Both physically and mentally. "You have to stay super focused the whole time," explains Luc. Because if you're not giving a hundred percent or not syncing with the machine's rhythm, the balls will be flying everywhere, and the passes will miss the target by a long shot.