Esports is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world – and we are starting to see brands and football teams tap into the gaming scene.
FIFA in particular is popular in the UK, a game where players can choose to play with their favourite football teams or players.
In 2018, the Premier League started the ‘ePremier League’ where players could sign up to represent their favourite club and the winners of the qualification bracket would go on to the televised finals with a chance to compete for a cash prize.
Representing Liverpool in the PS4 bracket this year is 17-year-old Daniel Ray, from Bromley.
He will be joined representing the Reds by Donovan ‘Tekkz’ Hunt, who won the tournament for Liverpool in 2018 and has accumulated more than £400,000 winnings in various FIFA tournaments.
Daniel, speaking exclusively to Merseysportlive, said: “Representing Liverpool is one of the most prestige things in FIFA esports.”
“They are the literal Champions of England and I’m representing them on a virtual pitch.
“I know how huge a tournament the ePrem is and I thought, what better way to make a statement than to qualify for the Champions of England.
“So, I decided to go for Liverpool.”
Daniel took part in a live play-off on March 3, streamed on Liverpool’s YouTube channel.
And it was a dramatic 90th-minute winner in his final bracket game against KruYago that secured him a place in the Finals (see below).
Opening up about his experience so far with esports, the teenager tells us how it’s increased his productivity during the national lockdowns.
“The FIFA experience has its highs and lows, especially in a competitive environment.
“I first got into esports through other games, specifically Fortnite and Rocket League.
“I watched a streamer called bradybenzzz who was playing competitive FIFA and that really pushed and inspired me to give it a shot.
“However, with this lockdown, it’s brought me more of a purpose to get up and be productive with my life during these tough times.”
Thanks to the growth of FIFA esports, the Finals of the ePremier League will be streamed live on Sky Sports, BBC and BT Sports.
In the past two years, the finals have been broadcast to over 22 million spectators.
Many youngsters may crumble at the thought of playing in front of a huge live audience.
But Daniel is relishing the task ahead of him with the support of his family and friends.
“It would be an honour to play on TV channels that I’ve grown up watching.
“It kind of hits home and makes me realise how far esports has come.
“My friends are all incredibly supportive and my family are a little sceptical as this is all new to them.
“I’m sure they’ll understand a lot more when they watch me.”
Up for grabs is a £40,000 prize pot which will be shared among the winners of their respective console bracket.
Daniel is keen to stamp his name on the trophy and cement his future in the world of esports.
“If I win the £20,000 and win the ePremier League it would honestly be a dream come true.
“Finally putting the statement out there that I’m here to stay as a serious top tier player.”
You can tune into the live ePL finals on March 23-24 with the tournament concluding on March 26.
All games will be broadcast live on Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport online, as well on the Premier League channels and EA SPORTS’ FIFA Twitch channel.