From real pitches to virtual ones: football stars on FIFA eSports
With leagues around the world suspended due to the COVID-19 virus, many footballers have turned to their consoles to keep playing without any risk of infection. For some time now, a growing number of professionals have been getting involved with the virtual side of the sport when they are not playing the real thing. Some invest in teams, others own them, and some have even hung up their boots to commit themselves fully to the electronic version of the game. We present several professional footballers who are part of the world of FIFA eSports.
Known for being a passionate gamer himself, the 2014 world champion founded his own eSports team, M10 eSports, four years after lifting the World Cup Trophy. After immediately signing then-reigning FIFA eClub World Cup champion ‘FIFA Ustun’, his FIFA team currently consists of Dutchman Levy Frederique and India’s Siddh Chandarana. In addition to a FIFA team, the Arsenal attacking midfielder’s squad also includes a Fortnite team.
Shortly before the FIFA eClub World Cup 2020, qualified team Ellevens surprised the eSports world by revealing the identity of their co-owner – none other than Gareth Bale, with the former FIFA Club World Cup winner with Real Madrid first getting involved with the team named after his shirt number last year. After an incredible tournament for their two players ‘Ellevens Resende’ and “EthxnH’, the newly-formed team secured second place at the virtual version of the Club World Cup.
The AC Milan captain only founded Team Romagnoli at the end of last year and immediately took part in qualifying for the FIFA eClub World Cup 2020, where the team was represented by ‘nbd2699’ and ‘EmilianoDGianni’. Although the pair missed out on a place at the tournament in the fourth week of the qualifying stage, their talent was obvious, and they are sure to spring a few shocks in future editions of the FIFA eClub World Cup.
While Christian Fuchs’ eSports team NoFuchsGiven also failed to qualify for this year’s competition, they still have a strong presence on the eSports scene. They featured at the tournament in the previous year when the team still consisted of 2016 world champion ‘MoBacha’ and his final opponent that year, Sean Allen, and were eliminated after the group stage with 11 points. Several FIFA professionals are currently under contract with the former Austria international, including Lisa Manley, Remi Thomas, and others.
One of the latest professional footballers to become a FIFA eSports team owner is French 2018 world champion Antoine Griezmann. He founded Grizi Esport with his brother Theo Griezmann at the start of this year, and they have already begun competing for numerous eSports titles, including in EA SPORTS FIFA 20.
The Werder Bremen midfielder has already taken part in the FIFA eClub World Cup as an investor in Futbolist. The team made a name for themselves at last year’s virtual Club World Cup and finished among the world’s top four sides. The Turkish outfit are the most successful FIFA eSports team from Istanbul.
Mesut Ozil is not the only Arsenal player with a passion for the competitive FIFA scene. German goalkeeper Bernd Leno currently oversees a team of five FIFA eSports players who have been showing off their skills in competitions including the Virtual Bundesliga. One of his players, Jan-Niklas Flock, even qualified for the Virtual Bundesliga Grand Final.
As an icon in the FIFA game series, the former Dutch international also took an interest in the competitive side of EA SPORTS FIFA at an early stage and even presented the trophy to the world champion at the 2017 Grand Final in London. Several FIFA eSports players, including several from the Netherlands, are currently under contract at the UEFA EURO 1988 champion’s eSports Academy.
FIFA Puskás Award 2015 winner Wendell Lira is more than just an eSports manager. The Brazilian decided to hang up his football boots and hunt for goals on the virtual pitch instead. He currently represents Portuguese side Sporting CP Esports, which qualified for the FIFA eClub World Cup 2020 with two of its players and reached the quarter-finals. The former professional footballer has already qualified for FUT Champions Cups and is inside the world’s top 100.
Among the players to follow Wendell Lira’s lead and try their luck in eSports alongside their day job on a real-life pitch are former RB Leipzig defensive midfielder Diego Demme, Sascha Mockenhaupt of SV Wehen Wiesbaden and Hansa Rostock’s Julian Riedel.
Argentina international Eduardo ‘Toto’ Salvio not only invested in the eSports team TS Warrior player – “TS” stands for Toto Salvio Warrior player – he also owns a company that produces PlayStation and Xbox controllers. TS Warrior’s squad currently consists of ‘RastaArtur’ and ‘Tuga810’, who both represented Portugal at the inaugural FIFA eNations Cup in 2019.