SINGAPORE - The Singapore Premier League has been put on ice since March due to the coronavirus pandemic but players and fans can reconnect from this weekend via the SPL's video game tournament, its first.
All eight Singapore-based teams are involved in the eSPL, a joint initiative by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), Redd+E Sports, Zenway Productions and The Gym.
The games, broadcast live on the SPL's Facebook page as well as Singtel Mio TV Ch111 and StarHub Hub Sport 2, will see two representatives from each team take on each other in the video game eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer (eFootball PES) 2020.
The eight teams will be split up into two groups of four, with the group stage a round-robin format. The top two in each group will move on to the semi-finals, which will be played in a two-legged knockout format. The grand final will be contested in a Best-of-Five series.
The group stage started on Saturday (July 11), with knockout rounds, including the final, next weekend.
In addition to the eSPL, there will be a mini-tournament featuring the Women's national team and a celebrity match between SGAG and the Lion City Sailors next Sunday.
Lion City Sailors defender Zulqarnaen Suzliman, 22, has been practising in earnest for the last two weeks and has his eye on the trophy: "I want to win the eSPL badly. My teammate and I have been playing football video games since we were young and have been waiting for an opportunity like this."
The FAS' director of commercial and marketing, Jonathan Wong, said: "Today's football fans, particularly the youth, are also avid gamers as they translate their love for the game on the grass pitch to the virtual arena.
"By introducing the eSPL tournament, we want to provide another avenue to reach out to a younger generation who have a keen interest in both football and eSports."
Albirex Niigata goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Jumaat added: "This initiative allows us to build a strong community with the fans and engage with them".