We live in unprecedented times. The global COVID-19 pandemic has led to most countries adopting strict social distancing measures, and with millions of people are forced to stay at home. When many of us would typically be attending sports events or at least watching them live on TV, pretty much all major sports have been cancelled or postponed until further notice.
Nevertheless, sporting competitions and their stars are getting creative. Following the postponement of games at all levels in English football, modest League Two side Leyton Orient came up with a novel idea. The team from London extended an open invitation to other clubs around the world, aimed at starting an online tournament amongst teams featured in FIFA 20.
The initiative launched by Leyton Orient quickly went viral, with 128 teams competing in what soon became known as the FIFA QuaranTeam Tournament. What’s more, this creative combination of real football and E-sports generated huge interest amongst fans, many of whom quickly went looking for options to bet on their favourites at online bookmakers.
? It could be coming home this summer after all!
Fixture details to be shared soon.
— Leyton Orient (@leytonorientfc) April 4, 2020
In Spain, internet celebrity and E-sports shoutcaster Ibai Llanos took a different approach. He invited each of the 20 clubs in LaLiga to nominate one of their real players for a virtual FIFA tournament. Using “LaLiga is played at home” as the theme, the tournament was a great success, streamed via YouTube, Twitch and on live TV to millions of viewers.
Typically more accustomed to donning their football boots than grabbing a console controller, the matches were highly entertaining. However, the best player by far was Real Madrid star Marco Asensio, crowned as #LaLigaSantanderChallenge champion after beating Aitor Ruibal of CD Leganés in the final. He even scored twice with himself, if you can imagine that.
? @marcoasensio10 sealed it with his second goal to make sure of the trophy!
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) March 22, 2020
Although football is arguably the most popular sport in the world, it’s not the only sport that has launched online tournaments, uniting real sporting stars with their virtual teams and personas. In North America, the NBA have launched the #NBA2KTOURNEY “Real Players Only” challenge event, which is certain to keep fans and players alike entertained at home.
Both established and promising stars of the NBA are amongst the participants, although there has already been a huge surprise in the opening round. Veteran basketball idol Kevin Durrant of the Brooklyn Nets was beaten by Derrick Jones Jr of the Miami Heat. The 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion proved that he’s equally gifted with a Playstation controller.
— Sony Sports (@SonySportsIndia) April 24, 2020
Finally, having suffered huge disruption to its schedule of planned events, the world of professional tennis has also come up with an excellent alternative for one of their cancelled tournaments. Due to be held between 1 to 10 May, the 2020 Mutua Madrid Open will now be played virtually instead, using the Tennis World Tour video game as its platform.
This virtual alternative will feature 16 players each from the ATP and WTA tours, all playing from their homes. Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal are amongst the leading men’s ATP stars competing, whilst high ranking women’s WTA stars include Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova. Most of the funds raised will go to charitable organisations fighting covid-19.
During this difficult time and for those of us missing our favourite sports, these are all superb and innovative alternatives. Stay tuned to the social networks of competitions, teams and sporting stars, because there are bound to be more virtual competitions coming soon.