As Boro fan Danny Taylor prepares to represent Boro in the Ultimate Quaranteam tournament tonight, Esports enthusiast Andrew Richardson provides the lowdown on the gaming phenomenon.
The league campaign is taking an enforced break due to the outbreak of COVID-19, but League Two side Leyton Orient are filling the void with a 128 inter-club FIFA 20 tournament, with clubs represented all over the world.
Pro footballers such as Crystal Palace’s Andros Townsend and Brighton striker Neal Maupay will be swapping their boots for a controller for the tournament while other clubs including Boro have enlisted supporters to take part.
The draw pitted us against Huddersfield Town in the competition’s opening round, with the tournament set up to raise funds for EFL clubs while fixtures are postponed. Donations will also be made to the EFL’s chosen charity MIND and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fundraiser by WHO.
Richardson, a PhD student at Teesside University and an Esports aficionado, hailed the idea by Leyton Orient to give supporters their football fix this weekend with the FIFA 20 tournament.
“I think it’s a great way of doing it, not only to keep fans involved with their own clubs so they can still show support for players, whether they be actual footballers for the clubs or Esports players the club have signed on, but it opens up a bit more of a cross-community with the fans,” he said.
“Those who are traditional sport fans can see this as another avenue, and perhaps the older generation of fans can connect more with the younger generation who play these games.
“Some may watch the tournament and see that their team has an Esports team and I’m going to start watching it more. Because it’s not at an actual stadium, anyone can watch this from their phone, laptop, console or PC so it’s accessible for the modern day fan. Another great thing is that it keeps people’s minds off coronavirus seeing as though football has been called off.
“Fans can see the similarities between the two sports – they’re both heavily reliable on fan culture, they’re both entertainment forms and there’s a sense of belonging whether you’ve got a shirt or a player you follow.”
The Esports community is strong on Teesside, with an Esports team in Teesside Steelers, while Teesside University has a thriving Esports society – the second biggest student-run club at the university – and Esports societies at universities across the UK trump the number of sports teams.
Richardson says the university’s facilities enable the Esports community to prosper in the area.
“Teesside University’s school of computing department is in the top 25 in the world for it, so it’s internationally renowned,” he said.
“The university also hosts an international animation and games festival – ANIMEX. Our facilities are working class and we’ve had a history of students doing very well, working on huge films and projects.
“Our students are very creative and to help them with that, the Esports society allows them to play a range of games. Not only on campus, but off campus too. They’ve got links with Teesside Steelers, who play out at Teesside Park. It’s a good way for students to go play and meet new people.”