MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s La Liga may be shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the fierce competition between teams is set to carry on in the virtual world with an esports tournament featuring a player from each club.
With all major European soccer leagues on hold due to the global health crisis, one of the Spain's leading esports personalities has stepped in to help fill the void.
After hosting a virtual Seville derby last Sunday on FIFA 20 between Sevilla defender Sergio Reguilon and Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias that was watched by 62,000 people on his Twitch channel, Ibai Llanos decided to test the waters a bit further.
Llanos, perhaps Spain’s best-known esports commentator, asked his Twitter following whether they would be interested in him hosting a FIFA tournament with a player from each of the La Liga clubs representing their side.
The response was emphatic -- not only from fans, but from the footballers too.
A player from each club will participate with Sergi Roberto of Barcelona, Atletico’s Marcos Llorente and Valencia midfielder Carlos Soler among the first to sign up.
At Real Madrid, competition was so stiff to represent the Merengues that Thibaut Courtois, Dani Carvajal and Marco Asensio hosted a playoff online, with Asensio coming out on top.
“I just Tweeted it without really having anything in mind. There were no agreements with anyone: businesses or clubs,” Llanos told El Pais newspaper.
“I was taken aback with how it was received. In an hour over half the teams had signed up. I was just hoping for 12 or maybe 14.
“Footballers play FIFA much more now. They always want to win, they have that competitive gene. They know this (tournament) is going to mean a lot, their fans will be watching and they won’t want to lose.”
The tournament will take place over Friday, Saturday and Sunday and will be streamed on Llanos's Twitch channel.
“We’ll donate all the money that the streaming generates,” Llanos said. “It’s an opportunity to do something nice regarding coronavirus, to help the medical personnel.”
Full list of participants from each club: Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Sergio Reguilon (Sevilla), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Jason (Getafe), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Carlos Soler (Valencia), Manu Morlanes (Villarreal), Jose Antonio Martinez (Granada), Gorka Guruzeta (Athletic Bilbao), Ruben Garcia (Osasuna), Carlos Clerc (Levante), Lucas Perez (Alaves), Pedro Porro (Valladolid), Edu Exposito (Eibar), Kevin Vazquez (Celta Vigo), Alejandro Pozo (Mallorca), Aitor Ruibal (Leganes), Adri Embarba (Espanyol)
(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Toby Davis)