Jesse Lingard, as in, England and Manchester United footballer Jesse Lingard, now has an esports team.
Previously known as Audacity Esports, and briefly playing under the temporary name Team JLE, Lingard's team is now officially titled JLINGZ esports, taking on the moniker of his personal brand. The side will compete next year in the Rainbow Six Siege UKIN Second Division, with the ambition to "create a legacy within Rainbow Six Siege as well as qualify for the 2022 European Challenger League".
Ahead of the official unveiling we talked to Lingard about his decision to buy the team. "Well I've always been a big gamer," he said. "You know, I think esports is only going to grow bigger than what it is now. I've had various conversations with Ubisoft - they've been brilliant with me - and I just thought it was the right time to get into esports and own my own team. And I think taking another jump into something different is going to be good - I always like trying new things."
It might seem a little out of left field for Lingard to be suddenly moving into esports, but there is some precedent. A number of football clubs have esports teams that represent them in football-based games - Konami's eFootball.pro league features an entire 10-team league of official football clubs' esports sides, including Manchester United - while others like Paris Saint Germain and Schalke 04 have esports teams that compete more widely in games like Dota and League of Legends. David Beckham - also of England and Manchester United fame - co-owns a side called Guild Esports, which competes across Fortnite, Rocket League, FIFA and Valorant.
Clearly, there's something about esports that appeals to footballers - and games in general of course, which have a notably popularity amongst professional players. Lingard himself is known to be fairly regular gamer in his spare time, popularising Fortnite dances as goal celebrations when they were at their peak a couple of years ago - with some making it to the World Cup final. "I play Fortnite a little bit," he said, "and Call of Duty: Warzone. A little bit of FIFA, but I'm not the best at FIFA to be honest with you," he laughed. "Every time I'm put in a situation where I've got to play FIFA I get beat so... I don't play FIFA that regularly."
In terms of the game itself: "I've met my team, they're brilliant," he said. "I've been into esports for a while, but I've only just got into Rainbow Six Siege, my team have been giving me a few tips on what the game is like - I've played it a couple of times but obviously I think it's very similar to football, you know you've got to attack, you've got to defend, you've got to work as a team, you've got to work hard to get the victory. So I think this has been a perfect opportunity."
"A lot of footballers play in their downtime to take their mind off things, and [esports] is only going to get bigger. And that's how I wanted to get involved. When I put my name to something I want to be a hundred percent involved and, obviously, I'm a footballer first and foremost but in my downtime, I love to try different things.
"I don't really look too far ahead, but I think being involved now, I'll always be involved within esports. I think it's a great space to be in at the moment, and like I say it's only going to continue to grow. So, I'm looking forward to seeing what the future holds."