The humble match report has long been dominated by words, but one artist is putting illustration to good use when it comes to summing up a game.
Van Hong is an illustrator and designer based in New York. An avid football fan as well, Van has combined her passions to create ball maps, visually stunning representations of the movement and position of the ball during a game.
In her latest work, Van followed Tottenham’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Juventus with her pencils at the ready, mapping one of the best games of the season as it happened.
“In the years right before I started drawing ball maps, we were seeing tiki-taka deployed in so many dominant sides,” said Van.
“Barcelona and the men’s Spanish national team, of course, but also Japan’s women’s team, both of whom won their respective World Cups in this period.
“These passing passages are geometric, and create intricate forms that disappear as soon as they’re made.”
Van’s maps are created in 15-minute phases, resulting in six as standard. The result is a sequence of drawings that carefully depict the ebb and flow of the beautiful game.
“It’s also driven by a desire to record a fuller history than the scoreline tells,” said Van.
“Drawing a ball map gives us a small way to tell more of the story of what happened that day, and convey the energy of a team’s collective movement as well.”
Tottenham’s fixture against Juventus unfurled as one of the better games of the tournament so far, starting out, as Van and her maps illustrate, in cagey fashion.
“In this game you saw lots of jittery, fragmented play at the start,” said Van. “Lots of isolated 1v1 duels along the perimeter of the pitch, as you can see by the high number of touches going out of play.
“That’s a big contrast to passages in the second half, such as in Plate V (60′-75′) where Juventus successfully contain Tottenham outside of their third and concentrate their movement on the left.”
After taking the lead in the tie, Juventus stunned the home side with two away goals of their own, leaving Spurs no option but to go all out for an equaliser.
“Plate VI (75′-90’+2′) shows a Tottenham side completely committed to attacking, in hopes of reviving their chances as the clock’s ticking down,” said Van.
As you can see, the blue of Spurs begins to overwhelm the away side, but the goal never came, and the Old Lady progressed once more to the quarter-finals.
To find out more about Van’s work, and to see more of her ball maps, click here.