They’re in a league of their own!
By Jasnam Sachathep
Die-hard sports fans give their soul to the teams that they support. Their love for the game is so real that it won’t stay contained to the arena or even the television screen – hence, the sports fantasy league. They’ve allowed people to take on a new, even more fun form of involvement in the sport, where everyone has an equal chance to succeed, and loyalties extend beyond favourite teams to include specifific players. Competition levels soar as friends, family, colleagues, etc. passionately manage their teams to include the best of the best.
We’ve touched base with a few of fantasy league afificionados in the community to get their unique insights into this increasingly-popular pastime.
Playing for 20 years
What tempted you to start all the way back in primary school?
Friends and cousins were getting into it, so I just joined to see what the hype was about. I still remember setting up my first team in Mrs. Denise’s I.T. room near the big field (NISTies in 2001 will know what I’m talking about)!
How many hours/days per week do you spend on it?
When I was younger I’d spend hours on it a week, planning for all the possibilities, second- guessing myself, calling up friends and cousins to get their thoughts without giving away too much of my strategy. These days, I’d spend about an hour at the start of the season to set my team and probably 15 minutes a week after that to tweak it, then hope for the best.
As the season goes on, usually during the busy December period, I’d forget to change my team/captain etc. for the week, so I tend to drop points and fall down the rankings table. You realise it’s too late to make a comeback for the season so you automatically spend less time on it, waiting for the next season to start and swearing to never make the same mistake again. Unfortunately, when the new season starts, the same cycle repeats.
What do you love about it?
Definitely the competition! It also provides a sense of belonging as you have a community that you can discuss your shared passion with. The league has also made watching football games more exciting. You look forward to the weekends more, and Monday mornings at school are filled with discussions and debate. Whenever you have the highest points for the week, you’d come in very proud and have a lot to brag about.
Playing in the league also means that you’re up to date with all the players in the league and you learn more about players who don’t belong to the team that you support. You actually become a ‘football fan’ not just a Manchester United, Liverpool, or Chelsea, etc. fan. It opens up the world of football and makes watching the World Cup or Euros more enjoyable because you tend to know most of the players.
Any interesting trivia in the 20 years you’ve been playing?
Now it’s called Fantasy Premier League (FPL), but I’ve been playing since it was called Can You Kick It (CYKI). If you know, you know…
For me, fantasy football went hand-in-hand with a computer game called Championship Manager (CM) or Football Manager (FM) today. These two were my go-to games growing up – I’ve got a lot of memories fending off my siblings for the one computer at home!
Finally, a tip: don’t forget to captain Salah this week!
Playing for 10+ years
Why did you start playing?
It all started just as a craze – something new for 90s kids to manage a team of their own with real football players in the #1 league.
How much time do you dedicate to it?
When I started playing, I would usually be on it for couple of hours a week, but I dedicate more time now as it has become much more competitive, and most of our Thai-Indian society plays it. Some play just for fun and some with wagers on it. Even companies and restaurants have leagues of their own for the public to join, and the winner gets rewarded.
How do you play?
Basically, we are given a budget of GBP100 million to create a 15-player squad, and the price will be based on the popularity or form of the players so we can’t have a squad full of superstars. Also, another fun fact is that if you choose to make a player the captain, that player’s points will be doubled. That makes it more interesting.
What’s the best thing about it?
You would see people talking and cheering for specific players to score or assist a goal just because they have those players in their team, even though they are from teams they don’t usually support. It makes random matches much more fun to watch!
Are there specific strategies that you use?
After a few years of playing, I have realised that you need players that aren’t owned by many others to create differential points, and that choosing the right captain is key since it doubles your points on that player.
Any funny experiences to share?
For this season, my team, Manchester United, isn’t doing particularly well so I have to choose players from my rival teams like Liverpool or Manchester City which of course is a bitter feeling. When I get many points off them, I don’t know if I should be happy or sad because fantasy is great but my rivals are also doing great!
Playing for nearly 11 years
How did this all begin for you?
I am a football fanatic; it got me to engage with all sorts of activities to do with it – playing football, watching it, purchasing shirts of the club that I support, and of course, the Fantasy Premier League. My brothers were also a big inspiration as they would sit with me, watch the game, and analyse it. This made me appreciate the tactical and mental side of the game that I didn’t know existed. It made me realise that the game is not only about kicking a ball into the back of the net or making sure not to a concede a goal, but it’s a connection between your mind, feet and body.
Fun fact – I wanted to become a football coach since high school, however due to COVID-19, my pursuit was slowed down. However, with the situation becoming better, my hopes are still there.
How much time do you spend on the FPL app?
It depends, as sometimes it changes over the years. Last year I ranked 16th in Thailand, which was pretty cool. At that time, I would make changes to my team a day or two before the games started, so I would say, I spent at least 30 minutes making or changing my team around. I keep up with the team news and press conferences, which helps me to make my decisions for my team and this usually takes about a day of my week.
What do you think makes it so popular?
For me, I love the fact that it connects people together as you can join each other’s leagues and communities just to have fun. Also, as a football enthusiast, I like to analyse football games and players’ performances, which helps when making a team and changing it around for the fantasy premier league.
SUKIT SINGH KHURANAS
Playing for 5 years
What started your interest in fantasy sports teams?
I’d say it’s a guy thing! [Laughs] “Give a man a football, he plays for a moment. Teach a man to play football, he plays for a lifetime.” It’s the same with the Fantasy Premier League. I’d say I play approximately 2-3 hours per week.
I started playing because I love to play football, and I love watching Premier League football games too. And of course, I support Manchester United!
What is the draw of the FPL, and how do you and your friends keep the competition interesting?
In my opinion, it’s interesting that millions of people participate in this game worldwide; it doesn’t even include every soccer league but just the Premier League itself. I, too, wonder how the hype for players like me was created and has made so many people addicted to the app that they participate in playing every season. Some of the groups I see online even have weekly bets with money!
Personally, I love when the team players that I have chosen have a great week and gain more points than my friends. We also have weekly bets so the competition is on! The top three winners get free treats for dinner.
What strategies do you use?
It’s about 80 percent statistics, 15 percent luck, and another five percent favour – that is, I choose players that I really like in my team.
Playing for 15 years
Why did you start?
Growing up, watching and playing football was an automatic thing to do. When I found out about this game, there was no question of whether or not I was going to play.
How often are you on the app?
Before I had any kids, I would easily spend 3-4 hours a week. Now I’ve got to admit it’s less than an hour a week.
What do you love about it?
The opportunity to have bragging rights over your friends!
Any tips to share?
Never ever buy any Watford players! And don’t even think about captaining them. I once bought Watford players for a DGW (Double Game Week) where a team plays twice in one game week. That player got red carded so then he wasn’t eligible to play the second game. That one decision literally ruined my whole season.