By Christophe Jost
Rumour has it that Arsenal FC has arranged for all its players to undergo intensive training on FIFA 2020 and other electronic games during the current virus-induced forced isolation period.
Now we know that many of the club’s players are already very adept at handling their virtual memes in the cloud. So to take matters forward an E Sport command centre is being built at London Colney and training sessions are due to start next week.
As it is now a fact that the current Premier League season will not be finished, and uncertainty surrounds whether next season will be able to start on time, the club naturally wants to be ready for a probable move of the PL into the online world. As a result Arsenal is preparing to become a club where the actual players in real life are playing their real selves in the virtual stadia. It will be Arsenal fantasy vs Arsenal reality.
This strategic marketing choice has already been made visible for all to see. Just consider all the youngsters who suddenly made their way into the first team to the surprise of many. This generation is fluent in “real life” as well as in the “virtual world”. Yet no one was prepared for this innovation.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s plans for an ESport world league are said to have been accelerated, with a massive influx of finances by Chinese media and electronics, conglomerates who, seeing the virus threat ebb in China, want to steal a march on any competitors.
A major Chinese Telecom player who has been under arrest for a few years is rumoured to be leading this charge.
Facing uncertainty, in terms of when they might be allowed to play any more actual real live football, Arsenal FC look set to invest heavily in the online version of the beautiful game and aim to be the first PL team lining up a full real squad in that competition as well.
Player contracts are said to have been adapted for the past years, by including an innocent sentence in one of the game’s instruction paragraphs: games and training will take place in any location as decided by the club and governing bodies to which it belongs.
No one really wondered why the word ‘any’ was used, now it is clear.
AFC personnel have been reported visiting furniture stores to choose standardized gaming furniture for the whole team as well as large TV screens.
As things stand, an online world cup of clubs could be organized within weeks. Basic infrastructure is already in place, and all that needs to be checked are the internet connections of each player from his home, as well as these from staff and managers.
But therein lies the actual problem: BT and other internet suppliers are not able to supply sufficient quality broadband capabilities in all the locations concerned as some of the players are living in remote areas, some others in areas that have not been upgraded to fiber broadband lately.
Furthermore, many of the players do have a large family with them, making the home internet connection ‘clogged’ by the many devices and online activities of family members.
Word on the street has it that Google and Facebook, who are working on setting up worldwide broadband access from the skies, have been contacted and may use this opportunity to prove the viability of their concept.
Considering how much FIFA President Infantino wants control of all things, a virtual football league seems the perfect playing field for this world leader.
He would be in a position to take over the control of any player or referee during any game in seconds and influence outcomes as he wishes.
PGMOL manager Riley has been seen at Zürich lately in what is said to be an effort to join this virtual championship as Director of Remote Control, also dubbed ‘the Puppeteers’.
To anyone who asks why so few new young referees have been appearing in the PL, the answer is simple: the senior ones do not want competition when it comes to joining this virtual competition as they know full well they’ll be better at acting in the virtual world.
It has been reported that some players wanted their meme to take on a different appearance. So far the word from the governing bodies has been that this will not be allowed, as it would enable a male player to have a female persona or heaven forbid, Megan Rapinoe to play in the men’s championship.
Or imagine players choosing an animal meme. So far it is being said that on the refereeing side, there were objections as it was felt that with referees, having so much trouble identifying Arsenal players that VAR had to be introduced (just for that reason) under false pretences, were absolutely against it.
“Can you imagine how difficult it would be us not being able to recognize a player in a millisecond before deciding not to award a foul or to award a foul? Giving a yellow card to Aubameyang is easy, giving it to a dinosaur or a Ronaldlike looking Nr 14 is more complicated. How do we know it is Aubameyang? And just imagine a Mustafi with blonde dreadlocks or a Xhaka looking like a Nigerian player? We need to be able to target any (Arsenal) player of our choice without having to think about identifying him. Some basic rules must be upheld in this new championship.”
As it is, one thing is certain: some people think that things never change.
Can we do something about it? We sure can. Who says an Arsenal fan club made of hackers could not protect Arsenal players on the virtual fields. This does open up a whole way of considering the role of supporters, does it not?
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