It sounds like eSports could become one of the winners of the corona crisis
INTERVIEW DFB coach Hietsch : “It is time that the sports show now shows eSports”
The sports world has come to a standstill as a result of the corona crisis. The exception: eSport. Gaming on PC and console is currently booming.
While football or basketball are paused due to the Corona crisis, the business in professional eSports continues largely online. Important leagues and associations such as the German Football Association (DFB), the German Football League (DFL) or Formula 1 have recognized this and are offering alternative competitions online. For example, the second day of the “Bundesliga Home Challenge” starts on Saturday, in which teams of soccer players and eSportsmen compete in the soccer simulation FIFA 20. Matthias “Stylo” Hietsch is an expert in the field. He is not only a professional with the renowned “Fokus Clan”, but also coaches the new “eFootball” national team of the DFB.
Mr. Hietsch, how did you become national coach?
Matthias “Stylo” Hietsch: It was a long way. I have been playing FIFA since 1998 (hereinafter referred to as the soccer simulation and not the association, editors’ note) and when I was playing with my friends on the couch it became clear that I was quite good (laughs). Then I looked for the competition more and more, took part in online tournaments and realized that I had potential for more. When the “Fokus Clan” offer came and I was able to do the whole job full-time, I didn’t have to think long. In the meantime, I arrived at the coaching area at the age of 28 and last year, among other things, supervised Mo (Mohammed “MoAuba” Harkous, editor’s note) on his way to the World Cup title. A few weeks ago there was a call from the DFB and everything went very quickly.
What are you doing exactly?
First of all: The whole thing is not comparable to a football coach. There is already a clear difference. In football, a coach often has a certain philosophy and tries to teach it to the team. This is not the case with FIFA. You are more of a contact person for the player and take on the role of a mental trainer a bit. As a rule, the boys can all play great FIFA. But it is extremely important to do the right thing at the right time. Because – even if eleven players are available on the virtual lawn – one-on-one is played. If you make a mistake, it’s over. There are not ten other human players who can iron this out. Apart from that, of course I analyze the opponents, look at tactical preferences, strengths and weaknesses.
What does the coaching look like in the game?
Everything is incredibly fast – much faster than in real football. A game lasts 15 minutes for us, so there isn’t really much time to make major tactical changes. I only intervene when I notice something particularly blatant. Otherwise, my focus is on the player remaining 100 percent in focus.
In the past week you have withdrawn with the national team. What have you done?
We prepared for the “eNations Cup” in a so-called boot camp, a training camp. In the virtual world, that’s kind of the team world championship. Our squad currently consists of ten players – five each on xBox and Playstation. At the end, two will be nominated. We actually wanted to meet in Frankfurt, but due to the corona pandemic, the whole thing had to be done online, which of course does not involve much additional effort in eSports.
How does the corona crisis affect eSports?
In FIFA eSports, everything is largely put on hold. Almost all tournaments have been postponed – including the “eNations Cup”. We know that EA Sports (manufacturer of the FIFA game series, editor’s note) is currently working intensively on solutions and would like to take this opportunity. Because: Now that everyone is at home, there is a great opportunity to bring eSport closer to the masses.
What would you specifically expect from EA?
Many households in Germany have a game console and almost everyone is currently at home. One option, of course, would be to make the game “free-to-play” in this situation, so that everyone can play it for free. To do this, online tournaments would have to be offered – from beginners to professionals. Incidentally, the DFB already offers a good opportunity with its new “eFootball” platform. In this way, eSport could be brought closer to many people. We all want to implement this together as best as possible. It is now increasingly communicated via digital channels, interactions and ranges increase and everything grows a little closer together.
It sounds like eSports could become one of the winners of the corona crisis.
It is difficult to speak of winners in such a crisis. But eSports could of course benefit greatly from this – because everything can be done online. There are already leagues and associations that use this. The DFB plays a major role here. The new platform and the tournaments for amateur gamers taking place there offer great opportunities. In addition, there are now regular virtual friendlies, so-called “eFriendlies”, in which parts of the “eNational team” compete against other nations together with parts of the licensed players. The game against Spain on Monday included Bernd Leno and Marco Asensio as well as FIFA professionals “MoAuba” and Javier “JRA” Romero on the console. There is also the “Bundesliga Home Challenge” or the virtual “La Liga Challenge” in Spain. It was even broadcast on free TV.
Would it be time for the sports show on Saturday to also broadcast eSports?
Naturally. It is time that the sports show now shows eSports. If not now then when? Now is the time. This is a possibility that is currently not being used. For example, the “eFriendlies” of the DFB or individual games of the “Bundesliga Home Challenge” could be broadcast. Many young people are enthusiastic about eSports, but can hardly do anything with traditional sports programs such as the sports show. The other way around, eSport is not really tangible for many of the older generation. I’ve heard from older family members myself that they saw a FIFA tournament and were totally thrilled – even though they had nothing to do with it before. Such effects could of course also occur with a broader mass if the sports show would show the games. Sports games such as FIFA or NBA 2K (a basketball simulation, editor’s note) are particularly easy to understand even for lay people because they are based on real-world sports.
The best known name at the “Bundesliga Home Challenge” is Achraf Hakimi from Borussia Dortmund. Shouldn’t even bigger stars join in to really reach a broad mass?
If, for example, Robert Lewandowski or Marco Reus played along, it would of course give the matter a good boost. And if the DFL wants to push that further, one can already expect that it will win a really big star from the Bundesliga. But of course you can’t force the stars to do it.
In conclusion: you are a supporter of Bayern Munich, a club that is not exactly a pioneer in eSports. Uli Hoeneß in particular is considered a great critic. How do you perceive that?
Well, the Bavarians are now represented there, but they don’t play FIFA, for example, but Pro Evolution Soccer. But of course I still very, very much like this entry. As a fan of Bayern, I have extremely high respect for Uli Hoeneß. But that doesn’t mean that I have to share every opinion of him. It’s a bit of a shame that he doesn’t really recognize esports. But what is not, can still become. He can still change his mind.