Two of the world’s biggest football stars are bidding to cash in on the growing popularity of competitive gaming by launching their own esports teams. Four-time Champions League winner Gareth Bale unveiled Ellevens Esports, while French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann has launched Grizi Esports.
They are two of the most talented forwards in the world and they have both amassed huge fortunes by playing the beautiful game. Yet they both realise the potential for esports to compete with traditional sports and perhaps even usurp them one day.
Bale joined Real Madrid for a world record fee in 2013 and instantly helped his team win the Champions League. He has banged in more than 100 goals for Los Blancos, but the Welshman has become an increasingly peripheral figure in recent years due to injuries and a dip in form.
Teammates have dubbed him “the golfer” for spending so much time on the golf course, but now Bale has decided to channel his time into building up an esports franchise. “There are similarities between football and esports in that it takes real dedication and sacrifice to reach the top of your game,” he said.
The 30-year-old former Spurs forward has teamed up with 38 Entertainment Group, which was founded by entrepreneur Jonathan Kark and former footballer Larry Cohen, to launch Ellevens. Bale wears the number 11 on the back of his shirt.
Ellevens will initially compete in the FifaeClub World Cup in Milan this month, but it also plans to launch CS:GO, Fortnite and Rocket League teams soon. “I am looking to recruit a team of world-class players for Ellevens across a variety of games,” added Bale. “Unearthing new talent is an exciting part of the process and it’s been really exciting to be involved in selecting our line-up of players so far.”
Grizi Gunning for Glory
Griezmann is two years younger than Bale, but he is already a World Cup winner and he secured a dream move to Barcelona last summer. He has always been a passionate gamer. The Frenchman’s signature celebration, Take the L, comes from Fortnite, and he has also regularly used his social media channels to express his love of games like Pro Evolution Soccer and Football Manager.
He has teamed up with younger brother Theo to launch Grizi, which is recruiting players for teams that will compete in five games: FIFA, Rainbow Six Siege, CS:GO, League of Legends and Fortnite. The brothers have been inundated with applications.
“In less than 10 minutes, we already had 1,500 candidates to review,” said Theo. “The mailbox will not hold up.”
The plan is to compete at the Poitiers Gamers Assembly in April and then build up the brand in the years ahead. “With Antoine, we are really invested in this adventure,” said Theo. “We have always loved video games.”
Ellevens vs Grizi: Which Team Will Prevail?
The rivalry between Bale’s Real Madrid and Griezmann’s Barcelona is ferocious. They are the two biggest clubs in world soccer, and meetings between them – known as El Clasico – are major events in the global sporting calendar.
The geopolitical situation in modern Spain and the history between Catalonia and Madrid really fans the flames of this rivalry. There is no love lost between Bale and Griezmann, so it would be fascinating to see their esports teams lock horns in a big FIFA or CS:GO tournament.
The esports scene has enjoyed superb growth in recent years, but it is still in its infancy. The highest earning esports team of all time, Team Liquid, has brought in $34.5 million in total prize money, which is roughly what Bale earns in a single year in salary and endorsements.
Both Griezmann and Bale have the financial clout to attract the world’s best talent to their new franchises and bankroll success in the years ahead. Money talks in the nascent competitive gaming scene, and whoever stumps up the most cash could be the most likely to succeed.
But esports success goes a lot deeper than money. The favorites to win the big tournaments in the Unikrn betting are not always the best-paid players. It is about finding and nurturing talent, fostering a strong team ethic and driving one another on to success.
Bale and Griezmann both know what it takes to thrive at the top, and their expertise could prove invaluable to budding esports stars. You could argue that Bale will play less than Griezmann in the months ahead, and that could allow him to devote more time to his esports project, usurping Team Grizi in the process.
Why Sports Stars Invest in Esports
There are now more than 450 million esports viewers across the world, according to Newzoo analysts, and that figure is enjoying double-digit growth with each passing year. Esports is a cultural phenomenon, and it is particularly attractive for investors as it appeals primarily to teenagers and young adults.
Traditional sports like baseball, horse racing and rugby are seeing their popularity wane, but competitive gaming is going in the opposite direction. The action is fast-paced and exhilarating, the tournaments come in thick and fast throughout the year and the scene is remarkably dynamic, with new and updated games constantly muscling their way into contention.
The scene is growing increasingly professional all the time, but it remains a Wild West for investors and there are serious gains to be made by seizing early mover advantage. That has inspired all manner of rappers, singers, Hollywood stars and tech billionaires to get involved, either by launching their own franchises, buying existing teams or investing in the biggest names in the business.
Traditional sports franchises have followed suit. You might see the Golden State Warriors playing the Houston Rockets in a big NBA game, while their LoL teams face one another one Summoner’s Rift at the same time.
Big soccer teams like Man City and PSG have launched esports equivalents, and the next step is for individual players to capitalize on the growing trend for pro gaming by launching their own teams.