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Esports: The new lockdown platform for Sports Stars?

Has COVID-19 popularised esports even more?

With gyms, sports halls and stadiums emptied, the world of sport is at a standstill and we’re all looking for new ways to feed our craving for sport. Whether that’s binging a sports docuseries on the sofa or practising a few fitness challenges in the garden. But let’s face it, there’s only so many make-shift games with a toilet roll, we can do.

The thrill of watching live sport is something that cannot be matched. The moment the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when your team scores that late-minute winner is indescribable. That’s live sport and that’s why we love it so much.

At least for the time being, the way in which we consume sport is being forced to evolve. So, in a world without live sport – what is the temporary antidote? We can all feel a sport shaped hole left in our lives at the moment and for some, the Esports industry has been attempting to somewhat fill that void.

Formula 1 Virtual Grand Prix

In Formula 1 for instance, only matter of days after the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled, Velose Esports announced they would be organising an online event using the F1 2019 video game, streamed live on YouTube.

In what was named ‘Not the Australian Grand Prix’, a mix of pro gamers and racing content creators pitted their wits against some of Formula 1’s rising talent – namely McLaren driver, Lando Norris and Mercedes development driver, Stoffel Vandoorne.

The event attracted so much interest that F1’s official channel decided to form a similar event in place of the real-life Bahrain GP. This time not only involving F1 drivers and pro racing gamers, but names such as Chris Hoy, Ian Poulter and Liam Payne found themselves on the virtual grid.

The race was streamed to millions and has received applause from many who would never have thought to watch an Esports event in the past.

There’s no doubt that Esports fanatics are wondering where we’ve been all this time and have every right to scream ‘we told you so’ right now and it’s clear that while Esports is in vogue at the moment, brand new events across different virtual disciplines continue to emerge.

Another event that has caught recent attention is the #CombatCorona charity FIFA 20 tournament, due to take place this Sunday (April 4th). The charity streaming campaign has been set up in order to raise funds for UNICEF in this difficult time and so far, several football stars including Gareth Bale, Paolo Dybala and Mason Mount, have been announced to take part in what will be an unprecedented Esports event in the world of FIFA gaming.

Football stars from around the world will battle it out on Twitch live on Sunday

Football stars from around the world will battle it out on Twitch live on Sunday

Twitch London Derby

This is not the only FIFA gaming event that has caught people’s eye during lockdown. The Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham originally planned for last Friday, was of course postponed. In place of this, Ryan Sessegnon of Spurs and Hammers winger, Michail Antonio decided to settle the London derby virtually from their living rooms via live stream. Their head to head FIFA battle has already received over 100k views and it seems this is only the start of a Premier League player streaming craze.

Norwich City midfielder Todd Cantwell has also been representing the club in the #UltimateQuaranTeam FIFA tournament streamed on Twitch but unfortunately for the Canaries, the three points that Cantwell earned on FIFA won’t be added to their tally in the current Premier League season.

The Cricket Quarantine Cup

Other sports athletes from Rugby and Cricket have jumped onto the streaming hype recently. While some England rugby stars such as Tom Curry and Henry Slade have been resolving premiership rivalries on FIFA, The Cricketer magazine has organised for counties to take part in their ‘Quarantine Cup’ using the Cricket 19 video game, which will decide the first piece of silverware for the 2020 season due to be streamed daily from April 12th.

So if you’re scrolling through Netflix, praying for a live stream of a Bolivian under 19 league game to appear, the time might be right to at least give Esports a try.

It may not be the real thing but in this challenging time, we all need something to keep us entertained and the world of Esports is attempting to keep the flame of live sport alive. I, for one, will never take a Burnley vs. Brighton Super Sunday fixture for granted ever again.

feature image source: @lucas_blakeley88 – Formula 1 Esports driver

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