A NEW five-part documentary series which kicked off on BBC Three last week set about introducing us to a whole new generation of sporting heroes. The difference, however, in Fight For First: Excel Esports (BBC iPlayer) is that those competing are a world away from what we might normally perceive as traditional sporting superstars.
While the pressures are just as great, the stakes just as high and the crowds just as large, the five young men lining up to do battle for Excel Esports ply their trade not with bat, ball or spike but keyboard and mouse, for theirs is a contest fought not on a pitch or running track but in front of a computer screen.
For some of us, especially those still to master the complexities of Pong or Pac-Man, classing gaming as a sport is a bit of a stretch — although there is talk of it eventually being welcomed into the Olympic fold. But from the very start of this thoroughly entertaining series it is clear the requirements needed to succeed in this complex world are much the same as those required to win the Premier League or Super Bowl — the best players, best coaches and best bank balance.
Excel Esports are the brainchild of brothers Kieran and Joel Holmes-Darby who over a drink in their local pub plotted to form an esports team to conquer the gaming world.
Years later, armed with millions in backing and ensconced in new state-of-the-art headquarters at Twickenham rugby stadium, they are ready to launch their assault on the League of Legends European Championship, one of the biggest of its type in the world.
After a disappointing end to the campaign in 2019, finishing tenth out of ten, these British underdogs are determined to shake up the gaming fraternity during 2020. Top players are drafted in, as is respected coach Joey ‘Youngbuck’ Steltenpool, a six-time European champion. With sports psychologists, nutritionists, dietitians, physiotherapists and coaches at their beck and call, Excel’s superstar quintuple set out with one goal to reach the play-offs.
However, they are barely though pre-season before tensions mount, in-fighting begins and their ambitions turn sour. Gaming may not be everybody’s idea of a true sporting event but you can’t get much more traditional than that.
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