Before the holidays, the prominent French soccer team Paris Saint-Germain officially announced their League of Legends roster for 2017. It was, ironically, composed of several former players of Schalke 04, the esports arm of the famous German soccer team.
Now, even more prominent soccer teams across Europe are taking the lead of the French and Germans. F.C. Copenhagen, the most successful team in the history of Danish soccer, recently entered into the worlds of esports by signing Team Dignitas’ CS:GO team. They’ll be playing under the new organization name of NORTH in the ELEAGUE Major, which will begin on January 23rd.
NORTH should be just as strong as Hørsholt predicts
In a press release, F.C. Copenhagen CEO Anders Hørsholt seemed confident that his newly acquired roster would perform well: “We see great potential and have high ambitions with NORTH that we’ll be among the world’s strongest from day one.” Of course, Copenhagen’s peers haven’t fared well in their own experiments with esports so far; Schalke 04 was knocked out of the LCS in their very first split.
There’s reason to believe that NORTH will have a good start as an organization, though. Before being signed by F.C. Copenhagen, Team Dignitas was a force to be reckoned with in CS:GO, pulling out a win over top-tier team Virtus.Pro in the fall. They placed solidly in the middle of ELEAGUE, decisively winning their group but getting knocked out in the quarterfinals. The team members are used to playing together, and they’re from a highly competitive region; if they continue to play anything like they have been, NORTH should be just as strong as Hørsholt predicts.
Meanwhile, the oldest soccer team in Greece is pushing their chips forward as well. In partnership with Greek esports hub and event organizer CowboyTV, Panathinaikos F.C is, well, getting involved. Beyond that, specifics are up in the air—there’s no roster, or even a particular game, but Panathinaikos have expressed interest in “League of Legends, Starcraft, Dota 2, Counter-Strike, FIFA and NBA2K,” according to their press release.
The announcement by Panathinaikos also addressed Greek players who have traveled outside the country over the course of their careers: “We turn to Greek players who have already achieved something outside of Greece,” stated club president M. Dimitris Baltakos. “We now want to give them extra motivation and organizational framework regarding their involvement with eSports.” With Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou leading H2K to the semi-finals of Worlds and Ad Finem fighting their way to the finals of the Boston Major, it’s been an excellent year for Greek esports. Looking back at 2016, it’s natural that Panathinaikos would feel some call to action, especially with so many other prominent soccer teams getting involved in professional gaming.
Dynamo has lofty ambitions for its future in esports
Finally, Ukraine’s most successful soccer team, F.C. Dynamo, has announced its own gambit in the world of esports by signing Vitaliy “Labotryas” Mukha, a Ukrainian FIFA player who has a strong case for being the best in his region. While this may be a relatively cautious first step, Dynamo has lofty ambitions for its future in the industry:
“One of our tasks is to form a Dynamo esports school and develop it just like football Academy is being developed,” said Ivan Bulavka, who is directing the esports endeavors of F.C. Dynamo. “We have a plan for the forthcoming year and a three-year strategy. We want to arrange big eSports tournaments in Ukraine. It’s a business project, so we don’t want to lay our cards on the table at once.”
These teams all join the numerous and powerful sports organizations which have entered into the world of esports, including the Philadelphia 76ers stateside. If 2016 was a year of trepidatious entry, and frequent stumbles, by sports organizations into the world of competitive gaming, 2017 could be the year they learn to walk instead of crawl.