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Ronaldo at Chongqing and Messi in Shanghai: China’s football video gaming competition is underway

With the CSL on hold for the international break, China’s football video gaming competition took centre stage last weekend. The Chinese E-Sports Football League (CEFL) is now almost half-way through its inaugural season.

As WEF previously reported, eight CSL sides have teamed up with Chinese technology giant Tencent to form the new league. Each team – Chongqing, Guangzhou R&F, Guizhou, Henan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Shanghai SIPG, and Yanbian – is made up of professional video gamers and fronted by an actual CSL player. Guangzhou R&F have put forward Ye Chugui for example.

Before the CEFL started at the end of August, the eight sides held an American style draft to select their 23 man squads. Chongqing picked Ronaldo whilst Shanghai SIPG got Messi and Shandong grabbed Lewandowski. What the virtual version of Harry Kane makes of linking up with north London rival Alexis Sanchez at Guizhou isn’t known.

Players from the CSL were also eligible to be drafted so confusingly the CEFL will see the video game versions of Shenhua’s Fredy Guarín and Shandong’s Graziano Pellè turning out for SIPG’s e-sports team alongside Oscar. Zhang Linpeng was the sole Chinese outfield player to be picked, by Chongqing, whilst the video game version of Wang Dalei will play for Wang’s real life club Shandong. The virtual double of national team keeper Zeng Cheng will be warming the bench at Henan’s CEFL side behind Petr Cech though.

E-sports is big business in China and all CEFL matches can be streamed live online with games scheduled on weekend afternoons and evenings. On its opening weekend, the CEFL tried to mirror the CSL fixtures. This meant that whilst the real Guangzhou R&F and Shandong were playing out a 1-1 draw at Yuexiushan, their e-sports counterparts were playing each other in Shanghai. Quite how positioning the CEFL in competing timeslots to the CSL is supposed to help either league is unclear. To avoid any possibility of detracting from the CSL, surely the CEFL should be made to play mid-week?

With only three weeks of the CEFL left, it won’t be taking viewers away from the CSL for long though. The e-sports league is currently about halfway through the 14 round regular season. It will then hit the play offs in late September with each of the eight sides looking to take home the 300,000 RMB winning bonus.

Donald began following Guangzhou R&F having moved to China in the same year that R&F moved to Guangzhou. The club's first foreign season ticket holder, Donald was able to watch three seasons at Yuexiushan before returning to the UK.

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