FC Barcelona's Gerard Piqué missed his team's match last weekend in La Liga, and the footballer thought he might as well turn up by the European PES League Finals being held at Barça's home stadium, the Camp Nou.
The centre back wanted to at least watch the all-Spanish face off between two PES 2017 pro players that happened during the group stage (then both ended up first and third in the finals), and after that he commented on both the match, the event and the whole idea of competitive gaming.
After admitting he had enjoyed the tight virtual match between the Spanish players, we asked Piqué whether he thought Barça would have its own eSports team in the future. "Sure, possibly, why not?!", replied the defender to Gamereactor. Now, it's worth noting that, even if this isn't an official response by the club (despite Piqué's special bond to it), Pique isn't the usual footballer who 'just' likes to play videogames. The Catalonian player has been showing interest for tech, startups and gaming for some years now; we also met him at last year's Gamelab and MWC, and he runs his own videogame studio as a family business, Kerad Games, makers of Golden Manager and Trivia League. Indeed, Piqué's answer might be hiding some actual insight, as Konami's comments later in the day pointed to the club at least investigating the esports route.
When we interviewed Lennart Bobzien, European PES League & Digital Manager at Konami, at the same venue, and comparing to what Schalke 04 just did by signing a PES pro player, we asked whether the manager saw Barça, to which Konami is a premium partner, creating an esports division. Here's the full response from an interview we'll soon publish in full:
"I'm hoping, or I wish that [Barça] they're actually going this way as well. Obviously since we're now really close partners we're discussing with them as well as all the opportunities and the avenues we can go. But on the other side, from the club's perspective, it's just for them, it's a new... I mean obviously, the generation is growing and it's changing, even for Barcelona and there's no harm to start, to setup an eSports department. It will help them, also like they're covering fanbase. Of course they're interested in football, but also they're definitely interested in videogames and competitive gaming. So I'm actually thinking, I'm guessing that Barcelona is looking into it as well, and hopefully sooner or later they will have their own PES player for FC Barcelona".
Is there something in the works then? Seeing other big European clubs such as Schalke, PSG, or Valencia, and given the deal with Konami and the glamorous event held at Camp Nou, Barça esports just looks like an announcement waiting to happen.