Inspiration:

We were inspired most by the positive energy around soccer and how people across all races, age, believes and orientations follow the game of football with so much vigor and tenacity as if their lives depend solely on it. Football is such a beautiful game and has been a unifying force in the world. It has proven its capacity to rally people across all races and believes. While a lot of soccer website/apps maintain football data/statistics in silos driven by leagues or tournament of interest, there is rarely a platform or a on-stop-shop where users/fans can access football data/statistics (e.g. match results, fixtures, top scorers, match video highlights, player information, transfer news, live scores, soccer events, team news, etc.) for all countries, leagues, tournaments/champions around the world. We are talking about football data of over 200 FIFA member countries in the world. Our goal is to provide a platform where users, fans, pundits, governing bodies/regulators, news/print/online media, etc., can follow in real-time football activities/events as they become available and obtain the most accurate information of football clubs, leagues, championships/tournaments of interest in the most user-friendly way possible. There is also a built-in social engagement function that provide users/fans the opportunity to interact with other fans across various interests in real-time, exchange energies peculiar to the game of football and engage one another just like in other social media platform. Now, the difference is that all these information and energy are available within one platform as they do not need to go to different platforms or search engine to find the information they need. The goal is for this platform to become football search engine over time, where every/any information about football (historic data) can be found on with ease.

What it does:

Friends Fans Football (FFF) is a platform for football soccer fans to connect, socialize and get on-the-minute information about every football game or events happening around the world. It is basically for soccer fans, pundits, media (news, print, tv, online) and everyone. In the light of suspension of all football related activities in most countries of the world were football is played due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FFF provides a platform to engage soccer fans globally, provide up-to-date information on all football related activities as they become available and enable social engagement. It is an effort to rally all football loving fans worldwide, keep them engaged even in this period of global lock-downs and social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides an alternative to keeping the energy of the game alive and for obtaining both historic football data as well as upcoming events/games.

How I built it:

We built the front-end of the website and app in the most user-friendly way possible using html, css and javascript. We had in mind to make it as most users friendly as possible. Being a highly data driven website/app, we segmented the UI into five(5) difference menus as follows Home: All live score, live events, live video highlights, scorers, best teams and players are displayed in real-time to give the user on the minute update. Match Result: All matches results (ongoing & concluded), fixtures, league standings, Top Scorers, Highlights across five (5) continents of the world (Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania & Americas) from 2009/2010 season to date, including all major global soccer championships/tournaments. Fanszone: This is where the social engagements happen. Football fans have the opportunity to interact on their Fanszone page as well as via direct messaging, they can follow one another to see feeds. The whole essence is to keep the energy alive. My Team: Information about the user's team of choice (club or country) is available including. Stat: This is where full statistics of all teams (club & country) can be viewed. It is rich with historic data, which pundits and analytics will find very handy and helpful in doing their analysis of games.

The backend was built with C#, ASP.NET, javascript, JSON API, XML. A lot of automation was done to move data collected from both structured (API-as-as-service platforms) and unstructured (scrapped/crawled data) means from their sources to our platforms database automatically. There is a system in place that does this in real-time. A lot of data structuring and optimization was done to ensure that the final data is clean and accurate. Data are rendered to the front-end/UI through our inbuilt API endpoints that are well optimized with the our backend systems for efficient and speedy delivery of data to users.

Our Inbuilt API: We have a well documented inbuilt APIs and endpoints structured to provide choice data to our website/app UIs. We did this because we have intentions to provide the vast and rich data we collected on our platform as a service to other websites, sport/soccer bloggers and news media who may need them as such, making us a resource center for other site.

Challenges I ran into:

It was quite challenging to built a website/app that is heavily dependent on data. To make the site usable for every football fan or human being in any part of the world who support any club or national team, we encountered serious challenge in collecting and curating accurate football data across various sources (online and offline). In doing this, we leveraged several soccer API-as-a-service platforms that are available, although some of them do not have all the data that we need. So we built a system/web service that goes online (i.e. internet) to crawl and collect unstructured soccer data, brought it into our system and then structured the data to make them usable for our platform. This way, we were able to have football data of almost all countries and football leagues (all divisions - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th) in the world. It was quite challenging because the information is not in one source, so we had to aggregate the data from different source (structured and unstructured) through a web service deployed to be able to make sense out of the data.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of:

Our ability to curate football data from several sources both structured (soccer APIs platforms) and unstructured was the high point for us. We were able to follow most soccer news as they break and provide same to our users while referencing the sources. Providing a platform were virtually all football information about virtually all games played around the world is major for us. This way, our users got all the information under one umbrella.

What I learned:

Learnt a lot about APIs and web crawling.

What's next for Friends Fans Football (For Love of The Game):

Expanding the platform to include other sports and not just football. Having achieved this with football, we believe we can do same for other sports like Tennis, Golf, Cricket, NBA, Rugby, NFL, Athletics, etc. This way, the platform will be for Sports and not just football, thereby expanding the audience and fan base. Due to the vast and rich data we have collected over time (2009 to 2020) on football, we also intent to provide data-as-a-service via our well structured and documented APIs to enable soccer websites and apps who need them to consume our APIs.

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