Ronaldo and Pele, two FIFA World Cup winners with Brazil, and Ruud Gullit from the Netherlands are all legends at different points of time in the history of football.
Ronaldo (from Brazil) bullied Germany’s goalkeeper Oliver Kahn in the World Cup 2002 final while Gullit was one of the players who helped AC Milan dominate European football in the late 1980s.
Pele, on the other hand, was the nightmare of defenders in the 1950s and 1960s as the Samba Boys won the World Cup thrice.
Now, imagine, all of them in one team, along with Manchester City’s treble-winner, Erling Haaland, bolstering the attack.
Sounds impossible? Not really.
Videogame developer, Electronic Arts, through its online franchise, EA Sports FC online – formerly known as FIFA 23 – allows former football players to participate in a virtual football game as avatars.
The Asian Games 2023, which saw esports make its debut as a competitive event, saw football legends make a virtual presence, as Thailand pipped South Korea in the Winner’s bracket final, securing at least a silver medal.
The players who helped Teedech Songsaisakul of Thailand win the game were Pele, Ronaldo, Haaland and Leon Goretzka (all virtual avatars of course!).
Kwak Joon-hyuk of South Korea and Songsaisakul played out the winners’ final, with the latter winning the best-of-three contest 2-1. Pele assisted Goretzka in the final game as the Bayern Munich player scored to help the Thai athlete win the decider.
Interestingly, in real football, Thailand (ranked 112) is nowhere close to South Korea (ranked 26). in the FIFA Rankings
While South Korea has finished in the knockouts thrice in the men’s FIFA World Cup, finishing fourth in 2002 as its best performance, Thailand has never made it to the tournament.
That’s where the Thai will have another reason to celebrate, beating South Korea in football, even if virtually.
How can Pele and the Brazilian Ronaldo still play in football?
The online tournament of EA Sports FC offers a pool of players for athletes to select from, which includes legends such as Pele, Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
These player cards – virtual avatars – are called Ultimate Team (UT) icons.
The esports athletes select their team from a pool of current UT icons and legends, keeping a particular formation in mind, called ‘meta’ in esports parlance. And they select the best of their teams accordingly.
By doing so, not only do the athletes get high-skilled virtual players but viewers also get a chance to see retired legends take the field, be it Pele, Diego Maradona or Gullit, giving them a sense of almost being in a time machine.
And that effect is even accentuated with sophisticated computer graphics which make them look exactly the way they used to, back in their playing days.
Pele passed away on December 29 last year, having retired from the game in 1977 while Gullit retired in 1998. The Brazilian Ronaldo hung up his boots in 2011.
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