For most pub league footballers, Ali Dia-style identity fraud is the only hope of testing themselves against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Jamie Vardy. But the PlayR SmartCoach now offers any amateur players the chance to measure their speed, power and stamina levels against the very best.
I tried it out on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Hammersmith, west London, for my Sunday League team PASALB FC, playing at a level several below the lowest tier at which they stop counting. The PLAYR technology works by syncing a small pebble-shaped device with your smart phone, then slipping the device into a pocket within a skintight vest worn under your football kit.
In my case, a man of 6ft, the vest was particularly tight-fitting as The Independent had sourced it in "small". Nonetheless, the lycra material meant it went on ok and hasn’t resulted in any scarring or lasting circulation problems.
The vests are pretty stylish-looking – I readily identify as a "PLAYR" so the garish branding wasn’t a problem and the black colouring is sleek, though I was worried about its visibility through our white shirts.
As someone with longer than average hair, colourful witticisms like "long-haired c***", "ponytail c***" and "headband c***" are frequently tossed in my direction by opposition players and their watching children every Sunday. Giving the impression I was wearing a sports bra wasn’t likely to help in this respect.
Fortunately, the logo of our generous kit sponsors, "Fish Wings and Tings", largely obscured the vest – and I started the game as contented as a customer glowing in the aftermath of one of the reasonably-priced Caribbean meals on offer at their outlets in Brixton Village and the Croydon Box Park.
Once we were underway, I barely noticed the vest, even in its undersized form. The only effect it had on my performance was knowing my speed and distance covered were being measured, and thus my instinct to spend large periods of the game with my hands on my hips whining at my teammates was tempered.
The app also records your total sprint distance, your "power" - the number of sprints undertaken at a speed over 18kph - and a vast range of detailed data you can compare against anyone else wearing the same tech.
Incredibly, according to the app my results compared favourably with the professionals – a distance covered of more than 12km over the 90 minutes, and a top speed of about 28kph.
I was playing on the right-wing and the average for professionals is likely reduced by players in positions that demand less running, but to put it into context, Tottenham's Christian Eriksen averages a league high 12.4km per match, and the very fastest players, including Manchester City winger Leroy Sane, hit little over 35kph at full pelt.
I also managed 76 "power sprints", again apparently more than the average Premier League player, totalling a sprint distance of 962 metres.
The fact that my heat map covering the areas I’d ran showed no trace of any kind of direction or positional discipline felt like a more accurate summary of my performance.
Nonetheless, I’ve delighted in showing my stats to friends, colleagues and random people at the bus stop all week. And the impetus of being tracked perhaps gets a little extra from your performance.
However, it’s not all upsides; 76 power sprints proved one too many, and I pulled up late on with a hamstring strain. This Sunday the app will have to track me pacing up and down the sidelines, watching on injured as my teammates contest our cup semi final.
The PLAYR System, including vest, SmartPod and charging dock, can be bought here for an Easter offer of £135.99.