Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Gambling for solidarity (neues-deutschland.de)

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Waldhof’s eSports athletes Marco Popiuk (r.) And Tim Christoffel (l.) Stand with club manager Markus Kompp on the lawn of the Mannheim footballers. Starting on Friday, they will play the SVW third division games virtually, thus helping their club. Of course, in the video game »FIFA 20« they don’t choose Dortmund, but Mannheim colors.

Photo: SV Waldhof, graphic: EA Sports

Sometimes the symbol is more important than the effect. That is why Marco Popiuk believes in preparing something of particular relevance. Public life in Germany has almost collapsed, and football has also been idle for many days. The bad news is overwhelmingly outnumbering the good news. Popiuk and his colleagues developed an idea that found more and more supporters – and had a positive response even with the biggest rival. “People from Kaiserslautern wrote to me that they thought the idea was great and wanted to watch it on Friday,” says the head of the eSports department at SV Waldhof Mannheim.

The SVW and the 1. FC Kaiserslautern share a long and deep hostility, which has often manifested itself in great hatred. But the idea of ​​the Mannheimers has ensured solidarity even with the rival from the Palatinate. Popiuk had announced that this Friday they wanted to virtually end the currently interrupted season in the third football league. The club also sells virtual tickets to the Carl Benz Stadium, which cost between one and 100 euros.

The following is planned: The third division matches will be replayed on the console with the video game »FIFA 20«. One third of the revenue is shared among all third division clubs, and one third is donated to the World Health Organization (WHO). The remaining money is intended to cover the costs incurred. Markus Kompp, Managing Director of SV Waldhof Mannheim, initiated the campaign. Afterwards she and the 24-year-old Popiuk made decisive progress.

The Mannheimers have so far sold more than 350 tickets, as press spokesman Domenico Marinese told “nd” on Thursday. The campaign was originally linked to the wish to have a “virtually sold out” Carl Benz stadium, but it was already clear that this would remain a dream. However, the intention behind the action is anyway to allow reverie in dreary times. It will be very specific this Friday at 6.30 p.m. – then the first kick-off will take place, the actions of the console players can be followed via livestream.

Immense sums will ultimately not come together, but this is also not decisive in order to be able to speak of a successful event later. “We want to convey the idea of ​​solidarity and at the same time make sure that fans can enjoy the matches,” explains Popiuk. In dreary times, fans can experience a little football atmosphere on the sofa: the games are accompanied in live stream by commentators from Mannheim.

Because eSports can be played online, the rapidly growing niche is not fully affected by the consequences of the corona pandemic. The offline major tournaments, in which the best gamers can win prize money of up to 100,000 euros, are canceled like real sports, but the possibility of playing online ensures a rest of normalcy. Especially in Asia, eSports is extremely popular, but also in Europe the big tournaments attract thousands of spectators. So far, Popiuk and his colleagues have not stepped out of the shadow of football on the grass. In the crisis, they may even have the chance to gain a few followers.

“We want to play all the SVW games this evening,” explains Popiuk. It starts with the game of SV Waldhof against KFC Uerdingen, the last one will be against FSV Zwickau. Until the end, Popiuk was looking for real opponents for the SVW’s eleven games – just as many as Mannheim’s soccer players would have to play in the third division season.

Popiuk quickly found what he was looking for at SpVgg Unterhaching, the third division club from Bavaria also has a small eSports department – the match for this Friday has long been agreed. “We contacted some clubs to see if they could hire a player,” Popiuk reports. The Mannheim team also found an opponent from Chemnitz, but because the SVW has already played against the CFC in the real world twice this season, the duel against the Chemnitz gamer is “just” a preparation match. At the latest at 6.30 p.m. you will know how many games will take place against a real opponent. If there is no human opponent, the Mannheimers play against the computer version of the opponent – as is likely to be the case against the Eastern clubs from Rostock, Halle and Zwickau.

In advance, work is still being carried out on a way to simulate the entire season of the third division, and not just the eleven games of the Mannheim team, via »FIFA 20«. That would increase the tension. “It’s not about the fact that the Waldhof is virtually a 20-point advantage at the end,” says Popiuk: “We want to provide variety and joy for fans who lack football.” What the virtual end of the season may look like Popiuk doesn’t want to predict, but for the first game against KFC Uerdingen he dares a tip: “I’m assuming a clear 3-0 for the Waldhof.”

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