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Let the games begin

Champions Journal was in London for the eChampions League group stage this weekend, to witness joy and despair in equal measure

WORDS Jack Stewart`

The retro gaming bar around the corner and the nearby Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park felt like an appropriate backdrop as the gaming and sporting worlds collided in the eChampions League 2023 group stage this weekend. The prestigious esports tournament kicked off with the first of the offline stages, as 64 elite FIFA 23 players travelled to the Here East theatre in London’s Stratford to compete.

With the players preferring PlayStation controllers to shin pads for and opting for the comfort of sliders over football boots, this felt like a different universe to you usual Champions League event. That said, the immense pressure and visceral emotion remained very much the same.

Inside the studio, six players were on stage for the broadcast’s highlighted matches, while the remaining 26 players in Group A were crammed together in what is dubbed ‘the pit’: a double-sided row of chairs and monitors where they compete simultaneously. The general public weren’t allowed in at this stage so as the first matches got underway, the silence that took over the tension filled-room felt oddly reminiscent of lockdown-era football. That was until the goals began to fly in.

The coveted cup (top); Raise your fist if you think you’ll win this season…

“Vamos!”

“Oui!” 

“Come on!”

Short but explosive celebrations would suddenly burst through from every corner of the room, as if fireworks were being let off throughout the studio. Drama was inevitable as all the emotions of two legs of football were condensed into about 20 minutes of action-packed games of FIFA. Plus, there were 16 of those enthralling bouts happening all at once. 

The retro gaming bar around the corner and the nearby Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park felt like an appropriate backdrop as the gaming and sporting worlds collided in the eChampions League 2023 group stage this weekend. The prestigious esports tournament kicked off with the first of the offline stages, as 64 elite FIFA 23 players travelled to the Here East theatre in London’s Stratford to compete.

With the players preferring PlayStation controllers to shin pads for and opting for the comfort of sliders over football boots, this felt like a different universe to you usual Champions League event. That said, the immense pressure and visceral emotion remained very much the same.

Inside the studio, six players were on stage for the broadcast’s highlighted matches, while the remaining 26 players in Group A were crammed together in what is dubbed ‘the pit’: a double-sided row of chairs and monitors where they compete simultaneously. The general public weren’t allowed in at this stage so as the first matches got underway, the silence that took over the tension filled-room felt oddly reminiscent of lockdown-era football. That was until the goals began to fly in.

The coveted cup (top); Raise your fist if you think you’ll win this season…

“Vamos!”

“Oui!” 

“Come on!”

Short but explosive celebrations would suddenly burst through from every corner of the room, as if fireworks were being let off throughout the studio. Drama was inevitable as all the emotions of two legs of football were condensed into about 20 minutes of action-packed games of FIFA. Plus, there were 16 of those enthralling bouts happening all at once. 

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

The nervous energy grew as the day went on and players began to be eliminated; the overwhelming relief/irritation at the end of every round was palpable. Every player, watched by referees, was required to stay seated after their games to avoid distracting those still playing, but the overpowering stress made that a near-impossible task for most.

Every competitor came into the day knowing they would need to win three two-legged games to advance; three losses would mean elimination. And because every player was drawn against another with a matching record, winning meant that subsequent games would only get tougher. And unlike footballers, who have at least a week to prepare for their next Champions League fixture, these pros had just 15 minutes to reset and regain their composure.  

Last year’s winner, nicolass99fc, was back for more

As soon as the full-time whistle went, you could see most players pulling up replays of their last match to quickly analyse how they were playing. Some even had coaches in attendance, who would jot down notes and timestamps so that they could highlight mistakes and good passages of play. Meanwhile, others brought girlfriends, siblings and friends for moral support. One group of friends could be seen dancing along to the in-game celebrations, while one father watched on proudly as his son took part in his first professional tournament.

However, some did not get to ride those highs and, instead, watched their dreams slip away. In the fifth and final round, where many were fighting to survive, the last-minute elimination of one player proved too much for his coach, who proceeded to nail his chair with a volley that would make Robin van Persie proud.

The brutal reality of any prestigious tournament is that many will never reach that final stage. 

The players who did qualify for the knockouts inched closer to the finals in Istanbul, but spare a thought for those who committed to hundreds of hours of practice but will have to wait a year for another opportunity.

The retro gaming bar around the corner and the nearby Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park felt like an appropriate backdrop as the gaming and sporting worlds collided in the eChampions League 2023 group stage this weekend. The prestigious esports tournament kicked off with the first of the offline stages, as 64 elite FIFA 23 players travelled to the Here East theatre in London’s Stratford to compete.

With the players preferring PlayStation controllers to shin pads for and opting for the comfort of sliders over football boots, this felt like a different universe to you usual Champions League event. That said, the immense pressure and visceral emotion remained very much the same.

Inside the studio, six players were on stage for the broadcast’s highlighted matches, while the remaining 26 players in Group A were crammed together in what is dubbed ‘the pit’: a double-sided row of chairs and monitors where they compete simultaneously. The general public weren’t allowed in at this stage so as the first matches got underway, the silence that took over the tension filled-room felt oddly reminiscent of lockdown-era football. That was until the goals began to fly in.

The coveted cup (top); Raise your fist if you think you’ll win this season…

“Vamos!”

“Oui!” 

“Come on!”

Short but explosive celebrations would suddenly burst through from every corner of the room, as if fireworks were being let off throughout the studio. Drama was inevitable as all the emotions of two legs of football were condensed into about 20 minutes of action-packed games of FIFA. Plus, there were 16 of those enthralling bouts happening all at once. 

Let the games begin
esports

Let the games begin

Champions Journal was in London for the eChampions League group stage this weekend, to witness joy and despair in equal measure

WORDS Jack Stewart`

The retro gaming bar around the corner and the nearby Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park felt like an appropriate backdrop as the gaming and sporting worlds collided in the eChampions League 2023 group stage this weekend. The prestigious esports tournament kicked off with the first of the offline stages, as 64 elite FIFA 23 players travelled to the Here East theatre in London’s Stratford to compete.

With the players preferring PlayStation controllers to shin pads for and opting for the comfort of sliders over football boots, this felt like a different universe to you usual Champions League event. That said, the immense pressure and visceral emotion remained very much the same.

Inside the studio, six players were on stage for the broadcast’s highlighted matches, while the remaining 26 players in Group A were crammed together in what is dubbed ‘the pit’: a double-sided row of chairs and monitors where they compete simultaneously. The general public weren’t allowed in at this stage so as the first matches got underway, the silence that took over the tension filled-room felt oddly reminiscent of lockdown-era football. That was until the goals began to fly in.

The coveted cup (top); Raise your fist if you think you’ll win this season…

“Vamos!”

“Oui!” 

“Come on!”

Short but explosive celebrations would suddenly burst through from every corner of the room, as if fireworks were being let off throughout the studio. Drama was inevitable as all the emotions of two legs of football were condensed into about 20 minutes of action-packed games of FIFA. Plus, there were 16 of those enthralling bouts happening all at once. 

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

The retro gaming bar around the corner and the nearby Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park felt like an appropriate backdrop as the gaming and sporting worlds collided in the eChampions League 2023 group stage this weekend. The prestigious esports tournament kicked off with the first of the offline stages, as 64 elite FIFA 23 players travelled to the Here East theatre in London’s Stratford to compete.

With the players preferring PlayStation controllers to shin pads for and opting for the comfort of sliders over football boots, this felt like a different universe to you usual Champions League event. That said, the immense pressure and visceral emotion remained very much the same.

Inside the studio, six players were on stage for the broadcast’s highlighted matches, while the remaining 26 players in Group A were crammed together in what is dubbed ‘the pit’: a double-sided row of chairs and monitors where they compete simultaneously. The general public weren’t allowed in at this stage so as the first matches got underway, the silence that took over the tension filled-room felt oddly reminiscent of lockdown-era football. That was until the goals began to fly in.

The coveted cup (top); Raise your fist if you think you’ll win this season…

“Vamos!”

“Oui!” 

“Come on!”

Short but explosive celebrations would suddenly burst through from every corner of the room, as if fireworks were being let off throughout the studio. Drama was inevitable as all the emotions of two legs of football were condensed into about 20 minutes of action-packed games of FIFA. Plus, there were 16 of those enthralling bouts happening all at once. 

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

The nervous energy grew as the day went on and players began to be eliminated; the overwhelming relief/irritation at the end of every round was palpable. Every player, watched by referees, was required to stay seated after their games to avoid distracting those still playing, but the overpowering stress made that a near-impossible task for most.

Every competitor came into the day knowing they would need to win three two-legged games to advance; three losses would mean elimination. And because every player was drawn against another with a matching record, winning meant that subsequent games would only get tougher. And unlike footballers, who have at least a week to prepare for their next Champions League fixture, these pros had just 15 minutes to reset and regain their composure.  

Last year’s winner, nicolass99fc, was back for more

As soon as the full-time whistle went, you could see most players pulling up replays of their last match to quickly analyse how they were playing. Some even had coaches in attendance, who would jot down notes and timestamps so that they could highlight mistakes and good passages of play. Meanwhile, others brought girlfriends, siblings and friends for moral support. One group of friends could be seen dancing along to the in-game celebrations, while one father watched on proudly as his son took part in his first professional tournament.

However, some did not get to ride those highs and, instead, watched their dreams slip away. In the fifth and final round, where many were fighting to survive, the last-minute elimination of one player proved too much for his coach, who proceeded to nail his chair with a volley that would make Robin van Persie proud.

The brutal reality of any prestigious tournament is that many will never reach that final stage. 

The players who did qualify for the knockouts inched closer to the finals in Istanbul, but spare a thought for those who committed to hundreds of hours of practice but will have to wait a year for another opportunity.

The retro gaming bar around the corner and the nearby Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park felt like an appropriate backdrop as the gaming and sporting worlds collided in the eChampions League 2023 group stage this weekend. The prestigious esports tournament kicked off with the first of the offline stages, as 64 elite FIFA 23 players travelled to the Here East theatre in London’s Stratford to compete.

With the players preferring PlayStation controllers to shin pads for and opting for the comfort of sliders over football boots, this felt like a different universe to you usual Champions League event. That said, the immense pressure and visceral emotion remained very much the same.

Inside the studio, six players were on stage for the broadcast’s highlighted matches, while the remaining 26 players in Group A were crammed together in what is dubbed ‘the pit’: a double-sided row of chairs and monitors where they compete simultaneously. The general public weren’t allowed in at this stage so as the first matches got underway, the silence that took over the tension filled-room felt oddly reminiscent of lockdown-era football. That was until the goals began to fly in.

The coveted cup (top); Raise your fist if you think you’ll win this season…

“Vamos!”

“Oui!” 

“Come on!”

Short but explosive celebrations would suddenly burst through from every corner of the room, as if fireworks were being let off throughout the studio. Drama was inevitable as all the emotions of two legs of football were condensed into about 20 minutes of action-packed games of FIFA. Plus, there were 16 of those enthralling bouts happening all at once. 

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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