eSport is not a sport - is it?
10 February 2020
© www.wcg.com (World Cyber Games)
Joshua Begehr is FIFA World Champion 2009 and has won pretty much all tournaments that are important in eSport. Today, the 32-year-old coaches the coaches of virtual Bundesliga clubs, looks after up-and-coming talent and supports international eSports clubs. If anyone can judge how sporty the trend is, he can.
Joshua, what makes a good gamer?
In order to stand out from the mass of players, I have to do more than just play for hours. There's a FIFA tournament, for example, where 20 million gamers try to qualify from home. The first step is to structure myself. Real training is a challenge for many. FIFA has two or three two-hour sessions that have to be accommodated alongside school or studies.
Is real training something different than playing, playing and playing again?
Of course it is. Professional gamers take a ten-minute break after each 15-minute game. During this time they get up, talk to each other and leave their cell phones on. Unlike strategy games, it's important not to overplay yourself - that would make it uncreative. So every morning I set myself a goal for the day. It's about topics like: "What formation do I play with and how do I play?", "What is my defensive and offensive behavior?" and "What weaknesses do I need to work on?". All these questions are evaluated by coaches and analysts. Every game of a professional player is recorded.
But first I have to make it into an e-club. How do I do that?
As soon as a player notices that he always wins against his friends as well as against online opponents, he can apply to the clubs themselves or to us, the eSportsReputation (editor's note: www.esports-reputation.com). But we also scan the virtual rankings and see which players are at the top. Or we go to regional championships that take place offline and are organized by the respective city or eBundeslisten, for example.
Sounds like the eSport is going in big circles.
Definitely. A study* from 2019 showed that almost half of all 16 to 24-year-olds in Germany are interested in eSport. And: almost all Bundesliga clubs now have an eSport team or are planning to start. FC Bayern also recently followed suit. They are concentrating on virtual football. FC Schalke 04, 1860 Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt also rely on other game titles such as the strategy game League of Legends. Since all formats have been transferred from the classic world, the clubs play among themselves, as well as against international teams and football clubs at the official FIFA esports World Cup, the FIFA eGlobal Series. In addition to the clubs, the teams of FC Arsenal player Bernd Leno or the newly founded team of FC Barcelona colleague Antoine Griezmann, for example, compete here.
Do FIFA gamers have more to do with real sport than fans of other genres?
There are enormous advantages to having a FIFA athlete regularly on real grass. If I know how to turn my head to pick up a ball or if I can judge that I'm best jumping off from this angle, then I'm just as likely to get ahead virtually. I myself have played football and practiced martial arts during my eSports career. That helped me a lot, for example in terms of reaction speed and coordination. At FIFA, timing and mental balance also play a major role. Tournaments sometimes last six to eight hours and the stress level is constantly high. It's very annoying when I drop out in the quarter-finals just because I can't concentrate. How deeply movement is anchored in training varies from club to club. FC Schalke, for example, has its own fitness coach, who includes station training such as bench press as well as functional fitness with the fascia roll and resistance band on the training schedule. Furthermore, the club has its eSportsmen tested once or twice a year by a sports science test. If I move physically, this will definitely improve my performance in front of the screen. Fitness, like healthy nutrition, should therefore become an integral part of eSports - however, the international community is much further ahead. There are foreign clubs that provide a cook for the eSportsmen.
What part does real exercise play in German eSports?
From my experience, around 20 percent. Of course, this is also at the discretion of each individual player, how often they additionally go to the gym or swimming pool. It also depends on whether he has a part-time or full-time contract with his club. If he has to finance himself with part-time jobs, the sport usually falls behind first. On the other hand, many players are pulled along by the team structure. Going to the gym together is working time - unlike in classic office jobs. Being fit brings you forward. The two most famous German eSportsmen Cihan Yasarlar of RB Leipzig and the current world champion Mohammed "MoAuba" Harkous, an ex-Werder Bremen player, are the best proof.
© Sebastian Bahr
Prof. Dr. Ingo Froböse heads the Institute for Exercise Therapy and Movement-Oriented Prevention and Rehabilitation at the German Sports School Cologne. The sports scientist and his team have dedicated themselves to the topic of eSport for six years (www.esportwissen.de)
"I am a great friend of eSports as a sport. Why? It has many facets of sport. Up to 300, albeit small, movements and up to 180 heartbeats per minute, plus the cortisol level of a racing driver - that's real sport. I have tactical aspects, social, i.e. interactive skills, I have to coordinate, react quickly, learn to play games - all this is sport for me".
Froböses Institut has just published the eSport Study 2020 on the topic of health and recreation of gamers. The study with 1,200 eSportsmen of all levels shows that gamers are physically much more active than the average German citizen. On average, those surveyed spend more than eight hours a week exercising. Almost half of the Germans do not manage the exercise recommendation of the World Health Organization. And it is only two and a half hours per week ...
* Source: game - Association of the German games industry based on a representative survey by the YouGov opinion research institute.