Football’s off the menu at the moment, just in case you hadn’t noticed.
But our buddies over at Leyton Orient were the brains behind a pretty adept replacement in the form of the FIFA Ultimate Quaranteam tournament.
Orient’s FIFA competition – which is played on the PlayStation 4 between two teams and is usually streamed over Twitch – has really captured the imagination of clubs from around the world including Man City, Ajax, Crystal Palace, Celta Vigo, Wolves and Roma.
We’re currently in the middle of the round of 16, with Middlesbrough and Brentford the only English-based clubs remaining – but if you’re still not convinced, then here’s seven reasons why you might want to check it all out.
1 It fills the void…
The last time we watched a live football match was Man United’s trip to LASK in the Europa League on March 12, which they won 5-0 and included that wonderful opening goal from Odion Ighalo.
And while that wasn’t too long ago (at the time of writing this, anyway), it certainly feels like another lifetime to us – such has been the events of the last few weeks and all the upheaval that’s gone along with being in lock-down.
With all football competitions across the globe suspended – except in Belarus, naturally – this Ultimate FIFA Quaranteam tournament is pretty much the only form of competitive sport we can watch right now.
2 …And it’s pretty thrilling
While watching folks play FIFA might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there have been plenty of occasions over the last couple of weeks where we’ve been genuinely on the edge of our seat while watching a game.
Whether it’s 4-3 goal-fest, like the recent game between Lille and Salzburg which was full of late drama (watch the clip below) or an edgy 1-0 nail-bitter, there’s certainly some brilliant action to be had here.
3 It’s great to see pros in a different setting
This tournament hasn’t been all about the esports players, as plenty of pro footballers have been involved as well.
Some of the stars include Forest Green’s Chris Stokes and Blackburn’s loveable Bradley Dack, but perhaps the most recognisable name is Norwich’s Todd Cantwell – their young midfielder who’s become a transfer target for some of the Premier League’s top clubs this season.
But off the pitch, he’s just like any other youngster – cheeky, funny and great at FIFA, and we’ve seen plenty of this side to him while covering his games for the Canaries.
In fact, his reaction at the end of Norwich’s 3-2 win over Stevenage in the second round of the tournament – when he won through a late goal – is perhaps one of our favourite moments so far!
4 Some of these esports players are pretty good…
These days a lot of clubs have their own esports teams, such as Man City, Ajax, and Roma.
And some of these guys are seriously good at playing FIFA.
The best of the bunch that are still in the competition includes Middlesbrough’s Danny Taylor – the current favourite – along with Angers’ Nathan Nayagom, who was ranked inside the top 50 FIFA players in the world back in November.
Seeing them in action is genuinely spell-bounding.
5 …And it’s funny when things go wrong
Outside of the football, there’s two major things to look out for in this tournament; internet connection problems and temper tantrums.
We’ve witnessed both throughout this competition and they each add a lot of comedy to the proceedings.
Take Reading versus Celta Vigo, for example, which saw Celta go 3-0 up before their internet connection gave up the ghost.
That’s certainly not something you see happen in a regular game of footy, is it?
6 It gives us something to do…
Sure, we all love reading some of Dream Team’s classic content (who doesn’t get a kick out of remembering every goalkeeper Man United signed between Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar?) but there’s only so much editing and re-timing us sports journalists can do during these troubled times.
So being able to report on something – and do make sure you check out talkSPORT’s liveblog – means our days aren’t just awkward Google Hangouts with colleagues followed by watching Disney+ with our partners.
7 It’s all for a good cause
Last but not least… it’s all for charity!
A JustGiving page has already been setup, with donations partly going towards EFL clubs who are struggling financially during these tough times, as well as EFL’s chosen charity ‘MIND’, and the all-important COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fundraiser by WHO.