By Diego Barajas Fernández
Madrid, Jul 5 (EFE/EPA).- Pol Zapata works as a clerk at an outpatient clinic in Barcelona, but at night puts his gloves on to become the goalkeeper of the Aniquiladores team of the Kings League — a soccer tournament created by former Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué that aims to revolutionize the game with new rules that are more akin to video games and where a sense of spectacle prevails.
The League, which has taken social media by storm, brings together former soccer players such as Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero, Iker Casillas and Ronaldinho, as well as influencers, streamers and young people who, like Pol, took part in a casting to join one of the 12 teams in the championship.
“I would never have thought of reaching this moment. You normalize situations that were not normal before,” Pol, who went from playing as an amateur and barely having a social media presence to racking up almost 10,000 followers on Twitter alone, tells EFE-EPA.
The amateur league has over 6 million followers on Tik Tok, 2 million on Instagram, 750,000 followers on Twitter and 2.7 million on Twitch. It is a spectacle that combines traditional soccer with rules that change the outcome of matches and “secret weapons” that some say are more reminiscent of video games than regular football.
The seven-a-side, 40 minute matches — broken up into two 20-minute halves — include wild rules such as double points for goals at the end of matches, cards coaches can pull out with upgrades for their team, and dice that when rolled can change the number of players on the field, among many others.
“It’s not something that’s going to replace soccer. It’s a format where a lot happens. There’s a lot of mystery, things can change very quickly, there are double goals…Some may consider it a perversion of soccer, I think it’s an adaptation. It’s a lot of fun to play. You’re in tension all the time,” Pol says.
The final of the winter tournament, played at the Camp Nou, welcomed 92,522 spectators, proving the transgressive project is here to stay.
“At the first event. It’s crazy. Barça didn’t even have that much capacity. I think that’s what has impacted me the most. I’ve always played soccer, you adapt little by little to the issue of the rules, at first it shocks you a lot because it’s something you’re not used to doing, but the media impact is what surprised me the most,” the player adds.
For now, Pol hopes to make the ‘final four’ of the Kings League summer tournament being held at Atlético Madrid’s Civitas Metropolitano stadium on July 29, when the women’s Queens League final will also take place.EFE