Esports: Liverpool win first ePremier League tournament

Donovan "F2TekKz" Hunt competing for Liverpool in the ePremier League
Liverpool won the inaugural tournament thanks to Donovan "F2TekKz" Hunt, who is the highest ranked Xbox player in the world

Millions of people dream of playing in the Premier League - but for most of us a dream is all it will ever be.

However, for 40 of the UK's best players of football video game Fifa, that dream has just become reality.

"Since I was little I wanted to be a footballer," said Owen 'Venny' Venn, who represents Southampton. "Not having the ability was a bit of an issue, but being able to do it by playing video games is an unreal feeling."

Venn and representatives from the other 19 Premier League clubs have just finished competing in the ePremier League, the first esports tournament hosted by England's top flight.

The two-day finals event featured players who may not have the skills to compete at the elite level on real pitches - but are among the very best when it comes to the virtual pitch.

Players competing in the ePremier League
The matches were streamed live on the Premier League website

How does it all work?

At the start of the year the 20 top-flight clubs opened up online qualifying tournaments for the ePremier League.

Any UK resident aged 16 or over could compete, with the best players earning a spot in the offline qualifier for that club, which were all held at Premier League stadiums. The winners of these offline qualifiers became that club's representatives at the ePremier League finals.

"It's been crazy, to be honest," said Venn, referring to joining Southampton after winning the qualifying event. "They gave us hospitality for a game. I haven't been to a match in years so that was great.

"We got a training-ground tour where we got to see all the players, and made some videos with Saints left-back Matt Targett. The support they've been giving me is unreal."

On Thursday and Friday, the 40 players who won their club's qualifiers competed at the Gfinity Arena, a dedicated esports venue in London, for the chance to become ePremier League champion.

The 20 players on each console (PS4 and Xbox One) were divided into four groups of five players. The top two players advanced to the quarter-finals, where it became a knockout tournament.

The winners of both console competitions then faced off in the grand final to decide the overall champion, though there was no prize money on offer for this tournament.

Owen 'Venny' Venn competing for Southampton
Saints player Venn, a 21-year-old from Oxford, was seeded fifth in the PlayStation competition and lost in the semi-finals

Who was there?

With the competition only being open to UK players, some of the biggest names were unable to compete. However, the field was still made up of many familiar faces.

The highest-ranked Xbox player in the world, Donovan 'F2TekKz' Hunt, represented Liverpool, while other stars Tassal 'Tass' Rushan, and Jamie 'Jamboo' Rigden represented Arsenal and West Ham respectively.

But the players weren't the only big names in the building. YouTuber and founder of Hashtag United Spencer Owen hosted the event, while singer-songwriter and Fulham Ladies star Chelcee Grimes was there to watch the action.

Who won?

The grand final featured one of the most anticipated matches of every Premier League season: Manchester United v Liverpool.

That was after United's Kyle 'KyleLeese_' Leese won the PS4 competition, defeating Chelsea's Jas 'Jas1875' Singh 3-2 in the final.

Hunt, representing Liverpool, won the Xbox One competition by taking down Fulham's Diogo 'SCP Diogo' Mendes 4-3.

In the final, Hunt won 4-1 in the first leg - played on PS4 - before cementing the win with a 2-1 victory on Xbox One to become the first ePremier League champion.

ePremier League finals day
Grand final:Man Utd (KyleLeese_) 2-6 Liverpool (F2Tekkz)
Xbox final:Fulham (SCP Diogo) 3-4 (AET) Liverpool (F2Tekkz)
PS4 final:Chelsea (Jas1875) 2-3 Man Utd (KyleLeese_)
Xbox semi-finals:Arsenal (Tass) 1-2 Fulham (SCP Diogo)
Liverpool (F2Tekkz) 5-1 Man Utd (Jonesy17FIFA)
PS4 semi-finals:Crystal Palace (damie) 2-4 Chelsea (Jas1875)
Man Utd (KyleLeese_) 2-1 Southampton (Venny)

What next?

For the players involved attention now turns to the other upcoming events, and trying to secure enough points to qualify for the Fifa eWorld Cup 2019, which will take place towards the end of the year.

The eWorld Cup is the biggest event in the season and crowns the official world champion.

However, the future for Premier League events like this is less clear.

Asked if the Premier League will return to esports, its head of sales and marketing Will Brass said: "The honest answer is I don't know.

"What we're really focused on doing is creating the best competition we can for this iteration of the Premier League, and most importantly the best competition for the gamers and the fans."

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