Can Virtual Football Be as Good as the Real Thing?

As the world is brought closer together by new technology, it can sometimes actually be harder to access the real-life activities that we usually enjoy. Prices for football matches in Europe are at an all-time high and season tickets can cost hundreds of pounds in the UK; being a dedicated football fan can feel like a full-time occupation, taking into account the travel time for away games, and the food and accommodation costs alongside ticket prices. When you factor in all the components of a busy modern life – work, socialising, exercise, holidays – it can be hard to see where football fits in.

Luckily, there are now many more options for accessing the Beautiful Game than there have been in the past. Football no longer simply refers to the matches played on the pitch, but also to the entire culture built up around the sport. This ranges from fantasy football leagues, to the fairly new arena of e-Sports, to watching matches sat at home in your living room. Whatever your responsibilities in life, there is a way for you to enjoy your favourite sport without worrying about the cost in terms of money, time or other sacrifices.

PlayStation with games
PlayStation with games

But can any of these alternatives truly be as good as the real thing? Let’s take a look at the different options on offer before you decide for yourself.

Fantasy Football

Organised fantasy sport has been around for a while now, at least since the 1960s, and it is beloved all across the world. Some of the most popular fantasy football (soccer) leagues are the English Premiership, the English Championship, La Liga and Serie A. The idea of fantasy football is to create a fake football team made up of real players from your chosen league; these fake teams then earn you points based on the performance of those real players in real time.

This is a great way to engage with football matches without necessarily having to attend them or even watch the whole thing. Most fantasy football leagues now conduct their business online, meaning that you can check up on how your team’s doing anytime and anyplace. This activity is loads of fun and is one way to make new connections at work or foster new friendships with likeminded fans whilst still supporting your team.

Watching At Home

Of course, if you do have time to watch the game but can’t make it to the stadium, then there are now plenty of accessible packages available to watch matches on your TV or online. Whether your team’s game is broadcast on terrestrial channels, through a custom cable package, using a streaming site on the internet or via an app that can be downloaded to your phone or tablet, there’s bound to be an option that’s right for you.

Whilst watching at home may not quite have the electric atmosphere of being in the stands, you’d be surprised by how much you can still feel the emotion from your sofa. This can be made even better by inviting friends over to watch with you; you can even go one step further, providing snacks and drinks and decking out your living room in your team’s colours. Just because you can’t be there in person doesn’t mean that you can’t lend your support from afar.

Gaming

Unfortunately, there are bound to be periods of time when no matches are being played, no trophies are being won and players are taking a well-earned rest or training in preparation for their next game. During these quiet times, you can turn to the world of football gaming. Console games such as the FIFA series and Pro Evolution Soccer have seen immense success over the years, releasing new games annually and even getting involved with up-and-coming eSports leagues.

However, the gaming world is changing to become more accessible and more portable, with a greater renewal rate and adaptability, thanks to the internet. Online games are becoming increasingly popular, with everything from classic card game and bingo to new titles like Among Us and Pokémon Go gaining millions of eager players. Football gaming isn’t far behind; FIFA Mobile, eFootball PES (ProEvo Soccer) and Football Manager all have mobile gaming versions that have proven popular with fans. It remains to be seen just how far this sector can be taken in the world of football.

Football on TV
Football on TV

VR & AR

Two super futuristic areas of development are AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality). VR games like VRFC (Virtual Reality Football Club) for Playstation, Final Soccer for Oculus Rift and John Terry Football Academy (available across multiple platforms) are piquing the interest of football fans, and opening up new possibilities for enjoying the sport. This could be taken even further with the introduction of AR; the technology can conjure up a miniature pitch on the table in front of you, seat you inside a real stadium from miles away to watch a live game, and provide endless new opportunities for training. It’s certainly one area to keep an eye on moving forward.