The wide and wonderful world of esports is a diverse and magical place. With many different games to choose from and many different platforms to play on, it’s more popular than ever. Some of us dream of playing professional football for the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City, and while it can’t be a reality to run on the pitch at Old Trafford, it can be a reality to play for those teams on FIFA.
40 of Great Britain’s best FIFA players took part in the inaugural ePremier League season and the hotly contested tournament had big-name teams like Manchester City, Southampton, and even Liverpool.
Owen Venn, otherwise known as “Venny,” plays for the Saints and said “Since I was little I wanted to be a footballer […] not having the ability was a bit of an issue, but being able to do it by playing video games is an unreal feeling.”
19 other Premier League clubs participated in the ePremier League, the first-ever esports tournament hosted by the Premier League itself. The carbon copy of England’s top flight in FIFA transpires over two days of finals starring players just like Venny who may not have the required ability to compete on real grass but are among the very best in Britain when it comes to playing on the virtual pitch.
What’s the ePremier League?
As 2019 dawned so did the online qualifying tournaments for the first-ever domestically hosted English FIFA league. Each of the 20 current Premier League teams held their own tournaments that any UK resident aged 16 or over could enter, with the greatest players earning a place in the offline qualifier held at their own Premier League stadiums.
The surviving players from the offline knockout tournaments go on to be that club’s representatives at the ePremier League finals.
Venny, describing his joining of Southampton after being victorious in his qualifying matches, said “They gave us hospitality for a game. I haven’t been to a match in years so that was great.”
“We got a training-ground tour where we got to see all the players and made some videos with Saints left-back Matt Targett. The support they’ve been giving me is unreal.”
With the stakes high and the palms sweaty the 40 players, champions of their club’s qualifiers, competed at the Gfinity Arena in London over two days to decide who would reign supreme as the first ePremier League champion.
Split between two platforms, PS4 and Xbox One, 20 players on each were divided into groups of five players and the top two players of each group then progressed to the quarters where it became a tightly contested knockout tournament.
The winners of the separate platform competitions eventually faced each other in the overall grand final to decide the supreme champion of the first season, and although there was no prize money on the line, bragging rights were the most important.
While it was true that the competition was only available to players based in Great Britain, it still featured the highest-ranked Xbox player in the world, Donovan “F2TekKz” Hunt, who represented Liverpool, while other stars Tassal “Tass” Rushan, and Jamie “Jamboo” Rigden represented Arsenal and the Hammers respectively.
Hashtag United founder Spencer Owen was the host of the event and even actual footballers made an appearance. Chelcee Grimes, who plays for Fulham ladies and takes to the grass herself, was there in person to check out the action.
Who was the grand champion?
Like most real Premier League seasons where grand finals feature the most anticipated matches, the ePremier League was not about to break that tradition. The grand final was, of course, Manchester United vs. Liverpool.
The Red Devils’ Kyle “KyleLeese_” Leese was champion of the PS4 competition, narrowly defeating Chelsea’s Jas “Jas1875” Singh 3-2 in their final.
Liverpool’s representative won the Xbox One competition by also narrowly edging out Fulham’s Diogo “SCP Diogo” Mendes 4-3.
The final, the showdown, the grand occasion, was played over two legs: one leg on PS4 and the other on Xbox One. Liverpool’s Hunt dominated the first leg 4-1 before cementing his comprehensive victory with a 2-1 win to become the first-ever ePremier League champion.
|ePremier League fixtures/results|
|Grand final:||Man Utd (KyleLeese_) 2-6|
|Xbox final:||Fulham (SCP Diogo) 3-4 (AET)|
|PS4 final:||Chelsea (Jas1875) 2-3|
Man Utd (KyleLeese_)
|Xbox semi-finals:||Arsenal (Tass) 1-2|
Fulham (SCP Diogo)
|Liverpool (F2Tekkz) 5-1|
Man Utd (Jonesy17FIFA)
|PS4 semi-finals:||Crystal Palace (damie) 2-4|
|Man Utd (KyleLeese_) 2-1|
What’s next in the FIFA esports calender?
Next up on the esports calender for FIFA lovers and players is the FIFA eWorld Cup 2019. Players will need to turn their focus to earn enough points to qualify for the event which will start towards the end of this year.
The eWorld Cup, like the real World Cup, is the biggest event in the FIFA esports season and crowns the official world champion.
It’s unclear however whether events like these will be reoccurring. When asked if the English top flight will return to esports like this again, the head of sales and marketing, Will Brass, said: “The honest answer is I don’t know.”
“What we’re really focused on doing is creating the best competition we can for this iteration of the Premier League, and most importantly the best competition for the gamers and the fans.”