ESports the new frontier for Premier League clubs, says Ruud Gullit

More than seven million players took part in last year's FIFA Interactive World Cup. (AFP)
Updated 23 March 2018
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ESports the new frontier for Premier League clubs, says Ruud Gullit

LONDON: Dutch football great Ruud Gullit has urged Chelsea and other Premier League clubs to embrace the “new era” by establishing eSports teams to boost their profile and widen their global fanbases.
The former AC Milan star has set up Team Gullit, the first independent FIFA eSports academy, with three players and is set to add more from an original 3,200 applicants as he switches his focus from the pitch to the screen.
Gullit, 55, says West Ham and Manchester City have blazed a trail for their Premier League rivals by launching eSports teams.
“You can reach people, the whole world through this game (FIFA) and that is important for teams like Chelsea,” the former Chelsea player-manager told AFP at a Betting on Football conference at Stamford Bridge.
“In Holland all the Eredivisie teams have an eteam player, there is a competition and it is watched by more people on TV than the Dutch second division. The exposure is unbelievable.”
Gullit, who also has young Dutch Formula One sensation Max Verstappen playing unofficially on his team, said he was bowled over by the seven million players who took part in last year’s FIFA Interactive World Cup.
“Before, they were just playing alone in their bedrooms but now they can do something with it and if they are good enough, get out of their rooms and go to events,” he said.
English player Spencer Ealing, nicknamed “Gorilla,” won last year’s Grand Final in London, pocketing prize money of $200,000.
“I think for these players things will get better, better, better because so many people want to play it,” said Gullit.
“There will be sponsorship for the players, which is great, but they can only get better if they play for the big teams.
“Then you will have somebody to take care of you, you will have to travel and go to tournaments. There is a lot more going on but there is a team around you.”
In a promotional video on the Team Gullit website, the Dutchman says of FIFA: “It’s not a game in itself any more, it’s a professional thing. Football also started all as a game — now it’s become almost life.”
But the Euro 1988-winning captain said he understood those who complain that eSports is not really a sport.
“We think that sports is about you doing something physical,” he said. “Therefore some people think that eSport is not a sport.
“That was the argument about darts but it has become so huge they recognize it as people playing sport.”
Gullit, who confesses he is not as handy with controls as he was on the football pitch, is happy that he lives on in the game, alongside other players from a previous era.
“One of the greatest players to ever play the game goes digital,” trumpets the video on the Team Gullit website.
“When you see kids these days they don’t recognize you from your playing days, they know you from PlayStation,” said Gullit, who won the Ballon D’Or in 1987.
“They say to me ‘we want you but you are very expensive, but nevertheless how do we get you’ and I say ask my girlfriend,” he added, chuckling.
He said education is prioritized for his young players, who can play dozens of games at weekends.
“This is a new era, you have to adapt to it,” said Gullit, whose 16-year-old son Maxim is an avid FIFA player.
“Sometimes you fight it too much. You give an iPad to little kids and they know what to do, we didn’t have that. You adapt to the new generation and what they have.”
— AFP


Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

Updated 23 April 2018
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Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

  • Young Scottish star was very impressive during Liverpool's 5-1 aggregate destruction of Man City in last-eight clash.
  • Robertson refuses to take Roma lightly after their shock victory over Barcelona in the last round.

LIVERPOOL: With a desire stoked in the stands of Parkhead, Andrew Robertson is now fired up to fulfil a childhood dream.
While following the fortunes of Celtic, the defender’s first Champions League final memory was when Zinedine Zidane volleyed Real Madrid to success in 2002 as the contest was staged in Robertson’s home city of Glasgow. He was just eight years old.
While Robertson was deemed too small to play for his boyhood idols, released at 15 with a future uncertain, he has grown to prove his worth on Europe’s biggest club stage with Liverpool.
Now, with a semifinal encounter against AS Roma after beating Premier League champions Manchester City in the last eight, he wants to emulate those Reds heroes who lifted the trophy five times before.
“I was a big Celtic fan growing up and my heroes were Henrik Larsson and Co,” Robertson told Arab News ahead of tonight’s first-leg clash 
at Anfield.
“But these heroes who have won the European Cup and Champions League for Liverpool, you have to look up to them — and we want to emulate them and hopefully get a winner’s medal too.
“The club’s won it five times and the history of the club has always been this, the Champions League, where the fans create a special atmosphere and the club challenges for the trophy. It would be unbelievable to be a part of that history.
“This is the highlight for me so far and an incredible feeling, but it just makes you hungry for more. I don’t want it to end.
“As a kid, you sit back and watch how great it would be to play in this competition, let alone in the final.
“I always used to go to Celtic and we didn’t progress very far in the Champions League, but the occasions at Parkhead were always unbelievable.
“The fans at Celtic are incredible, world renowned, but Anfield was unbelievable against Man City and we have another chance for them to create that same atmosphere and hopefully we can put in another great performance.”
Having beaten Pep Guardiola’s City so convincingly, 5-1 over two gripping games, Liverpool will start favorites against Roma.
That is despite the Italians upsetting Barcelona in the previous round with an epic 3-0 win in the second leg after a 4-1 loss at the Nou Camp.
But Robertson will take nothing for granted against a Roma side who last reached the final in 1984 where they were beaten by Liverpool in a penalty shootout at their Stadio Olimpico home.
“Barca are an unbelievable team,” added the Scotland left-back, 24. “But let’s not kid ourselves. For Roma to score three goals against Barcelona, that’s special.
“They’ve been unbelievable this season too in the Champions League and deserve to be in the semifinals. It will definitely not be an easy game.
“But once you get to the semis, the fear of who you are playing has gone because you know how good the teams are.
“It’s like you look forward to the possibility of playing in the final, that’s what drives you forward. We will have fire in our bellies because we are so close to getting there.”
Jurgen Klopp’s men will no doubt be looking to Mohamed Salah to conjure more magic against the club he left in the summer for £36.9 million ($51.5 million).
But Robertson insisted Liverpool are no one-man team and the Egyptian, crowned PFA Player of the Year on Sunday night after scoring 41 goals in an unforgettable campaign, epitomizes a team united and ambitious in their quest for glory.
“He’s just unbelievable,” said Robertson of the frontman.
“In the first half (of the second leg) against Man City we struggled to get him in the game and he wasn’t quite at it. But the second half he was different class and pops up with a goal to help us win it. That’s what he does.
“His goals have been incredible and long may that continue. He’s a great guy, so humble, and for someone who has done so much this season he’s so down to Earth.
“That’s credit to our squad because we don’t let anyone get ahead of themselves.
“Mo is no different, he’s a lovely person and stands for what we are as a team.”

 

HEART OF GOLD

Five years ago Andrew Robertson was playing in the fourth tier of Scottish football with Queen’s Park and earning extra money by selling concert tickets in the corporate offices at Hampden Park.
Last summer he suffered relegation from the Premier League with Hull City before Liverpool signed him for £10 million ($13.9 million).
In a career fraught with setbacks and hardships, he has been grateful, supporting foodbanks that help those in need.
“It’s all about giving something back to the less fortunate,” said Robertson.
“I’m in a fortunate position where I do a job I love and get paid well and it’s nice to give something back, especially in my hometown. I’ll always do that.
“It’s been a great journey for me in my career, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. But I don’t forget where I came from. Maybe it is rare, but a lot more people are doing it now and I hope even more will.”