BARCELONA, Spain — Gerard Piqué’s Kings League, a brand new soccer league that simply three months in the past debuted to jokes and scorn, got here to an excellent, dramatic end in FC Barcelona’s well-known Camp Nou stadium on Sunday. As Piqué handed the glittering gold trophy to the winner, Adri Contreras’ “El Barrio,” a perpetual underdog whose staff was the one one with out a sponsor, one factor turned clear: The Kings League is right here to remain.
A complete of 92,522 spectators attended the Kings League’s Closing 4 matchup and managed to promote out the stadium, a feat that had been achieved by conventional soccer solely twice this season. Though the video games between the 4 finalist groups have been the primary attraction, the Kings League appeared to take a web page out of the American Tremendous Bowl playbook for its present, which featured a rap battle, performances by prime stars like Tiago PZK and Lali, and an try to break a Guinness World Record (spoiler: It pulled it off).
Piqué himself arrived to the stadium in a helicopter with the presidents of the finalist’s groups—the streamers TheGrefg, Perxitaa and Juan Guarnizo together with TikToker Adri Contreras—in tow. After driving them to the stadium in a golf cart with the golden champion’s cup, the previous soccer participant walked onto his outdated staff’s discipline and took his seat on a stage arrange subsequent to the sphere.
“There’s nothing like seeing Camp Nou full. We’re, for me, in one of the best stadium on this planet,” Piqué stated. “There’s nothing like a historic night time at Camp Nou.”
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And historic it was. Sunday noticed 4 groups face off towards one another in a brand new kind of indoor soccer of Piqué’s design that’s sooner and extra dramatic. In a nod to videogames, the Kings League contains “Secret Weapon” playing cards that permit coaches take opposing gamers off the sphere or have targets rely for 2 factors as a substitute of 1. It additionally spices issues up on the finish of the primary half by throwing a large die on the sphere that removes a sure variety of gamers from every staff and leaves the remainder to duke it out with diminished manpower.
The entire groups within the Kings League are headed by streamers or ex-professional soccer stars, together with Twitch megastar Ibai Llanos and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas and Argentine striker Sergio “el Kun” Agüero. Their groups, in the meantime, characteristic a hodgepodge of gamers, a lot of whom have by no means performed skilled soccer.
The unlikely mixture has enamored audiences. On-line, they turned out within the thousands and thousands to look at the Closing 4 on Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok, that are the league’s official platforms. (It broadcasts totally free by way of streaming, in contrast to conventional soccer which is proven on paid TV.) Greater than 2.16 million folks watched the occasion reside at one level, breaking the league’s earlier document, and a mean of 1.38 million tuned in for the almost seven hour stream.
In particular person, followers traveled from throughout Spain and around the globe to look at the Kings League finals at Camp Nou. On the way in which to the stadium, Gizmodo’s taxi driver marveled on the crowds snaked across the stadium and acknowledged that he thought FC Barcelona is perhaps enjoying. FC Barcelona’s official retailer at Camp Nou, which was promoting Kings League t-shirts and soccer scarves, was overflowing with folks, with merch from groups like Ibai’s “Porcinos” (or “swine” in English) and DjMaRiiO’s “Final Móstoles” offered out by noon.
José and Esther, a younger couple who declined to present their final names for privateness causes, got here to Barcelona from Zaragoza, which is three hours away. Draped in scarves supporting their favourite groups, Ibai’s Porcinos and Saiyans, TheGrefg’s staff, the couple stated they’d come to town for the day and have been heading again house as a result of they needed to work tomorrow. Whereas José remarked that Piqué had performed job with the league and that each one the groups have been good, Esther stated the event’s novelty had caught her eye.
“I prefer it as a result of it’s completely different. I don’t watch conventional soccer in any respect,” she stated.
José, in the meantime, acknowledged that the Kings League had change into a competitor for conventional soccer.
“Conventional soccer has change into very monotone,” he stated.
There was notably nothing monotone concerning the finals at Camp Nou. After two grueling semifinals that knocked out Perxitaa’s “Troncos” (which might imply both “tree trunks” or “the dudes”) and TheGrefg’s “Saiyans,” the common season’s heavyweights and favorites, the league’s two underdogs confronted off on the sphere. Within the ultimate sport, Adri Contreras’ “El Barrio” (or “the neighborhood”) delivered a powerful 3-0 victory over Juan Guarnizo’s “Aniquiladores” (“annihilators”).
The group roared. Adri Contreras, the smallest creator within the Kings League in each stature and viewers, and his staff had gained. In a approach, it was a becoming finish. Just like the Kings League in its debut three months in the past, nobody thought Contreras had an opportunity towards the giants of streaming or soccer. However he and his staff valiantly pushed by way of, proving all of them flawed and altering their very own lives within the course of.
In a press convention earlier than the Closing 4 on Saturday, Gizmodo requested Piqué what he would say to those that criticized the Kings League and doubted that it may succeed. The previous soccer participant replied that he hadn’t been shocked by the criticism and that he was very pleased with the product he had created. They’d performed one of the best they might, he defined, and the outcomes spoke for themselves.
“Proper now, we’re right here in Camp Nou,” Piqué stated. “Tomorrow, we’ll be in entrance of 91,000 folks. I feel that this greater than sufficient to make the entire individuals who doubted us eat their phrases.”