Rotherham FIFA superstars warm up for real-life kick-off

ROTHERHAM United's E-Sports team, who play the FIFA video game competitively in the Virtual Pro Gaming League, have put together a squad to play a match.

A TEAM of virtual football players will put down their controllers and pull on their boots to play the game for real to raise money for a hospice.

Rotherham United's E-Sports team, who play the FIFA video game competitively in the Virtual Pro Gaming League, have put together a squad to play a match at Scarborough Athletic Ground on Saturday, June 22.

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The team has been searching for grounds in Yorkshire who could host a football match and Scarborough’s was the first club to agree to host a fixture.

It will be the first time that many of the players have played a competitive 11-a-side fixture and they are hoping to raise more than £500 for St Catherine’s Hospice in Scarborough through an online fundraising page and donations on the day.

Some of the players have relatives in the seaside town who have been supported by the hospice.

Rotherham United’s E-Sports team was launched by Rob Hawden (pictured) and David Raybould in November and was originally made up of one team of 16 FIFA players.

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They play in the Virtual Pro Gaming league — a platform which allows teams of players to play the FIFA video game online competitively — and the first team has since been promoted twice to the League One South, where they are currently second.

The side is supported by Rotherham United Community Sports Trust which has organised training and match preparation for the players who are involved in the charity game.

Rob said: “Some of the players are quite large and unfit.

“We said: ‘Why don’t you get yourselves involved in this charity match and we’ll try and get you physically fit and get your mental wellbeing better’.

“We have reached out to our players who suffer from mental health issues — and some of them have got gambling issues — to get them out of their houses and get them fitter.”

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Among the players is Ben Russell (32), who will play as a striker in the charity game.

An Army veteran who did two tours of Afghanistan and was shot in the chest during his second tour, Ben suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, said Rob, but playing for the E-sports team had changed his life.

Rob said he was hoping the game would be the first in a series of matches at grounds across Yorkshire.

“We’re going to take the players, give them a day out, and at the same time, raise some money,” he said.

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The E-Sports team, which will have 22 players in its squad, ranging in age from 19 to 39, will be squaring up against a side from Rotherham United Community Sports Trust’s Man v Fat initiative, which helps men who are struggling with their weight to get fit.

“It’s a long time since many of our players have played on an 11-a-side pitch and for some of the players it’s their first time playing,” said Rob.

“One of the lads was saying he’s gone into the garage to get his football boots out and he’s had to knock years’ worth of mud off them.”

Rob said the players had been in working on their fitness in the gym to get fit ahead of the game.

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“Some of the guys are XXXL – they are unfit — so we didn’t want to drop them onto a football pitch for 90 minutes,” he said.

“We have got a Messenger group and we are giving each other encouragement and keeping each other up to date with what we are doing.” 


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