And then there were four! After pitting the nation’s top 16 FIFA eAthletes against each other, the AIFF eFootball Challenge is gearing up for its semifinal showdown on Friday, April 2, 2021. With the ultimate prize of representing India at FIFA’s flagship tournament – the FIFAe Nations Series 2021 (FeNS21) on offer, it cannot get any bigger than this for these young eAthletes.
“Reaching the top two should mean everything to an athlete because representing your country at this stage is probably the biggest achievement you can have. And all these four years (of gaming), I think it all comes down to this, to be honest,” states Lokmanyu Chaturvedi (24), the Delhi-based eAthlete.
His opponent Vignesh (22), who hails from Chennai, agrees with that assessment, “It’s a huge opportunity for all of us Indian players. In other tournaments it’s mostly about the cash prize but here you get to represent India and that’s the main thing.”
In the other semi-final, top-seeded player Charan Jot Singh (18) from Chandigarh will go up against ‘good friend’, Siddh Chandarana (20).
“We’re very good friends and play each other in all tournaments. The nerves will always be there, but the pressure this time is on Charanjot since he’s the no. 1 seed and all will expect him to go through,” says a seemingly laid-back Chandarana.
But the lad from Mumbai is pretty clear about what victory would mean for him, “This would rank as the number one tournament I have ever won. Playing for your country, that sense of pride will always be unmatched. To play for India in the Finals will be an absolute thrill for every player.”
Meanwhile, Singh isn’t shying away from calling it what it is, a “do-or-die” encounter, “If I lose I’m out, if I win I’ll be representing India on the International level. This is like a do-or-die match. It would be a thing of pride to represent your country on an international level against other big countries and hopefully if I qualify, me and my teammate can bring the trophy home to India.”
While competing against the best in the country is definitely no breeze, the four semi-finalists were grateful for the opportunity and effusive in their praise of the tournament so far. “It was smooth and the organisers were very kind to us. Especially when we wanted them to change the restrictions to meet the new requirements they did so,” says Singh, referring to revised team restrictions which only came into effect on March 27, three days before the first round.
“We had to record all our games in both rounds which was new. AIFF also shared the highlights so that was different,” points out Chandarana. “That’s what separated AIFF from other tournaments. They put us into the limelight, posting our goals and everything on Social Media is a huge deal for all of us.”
Chaturvedi sums up his assessment in one simple line, “It was all quiet professional and that’s how you would expect a federation to actually come forward and host.”
The semi finals will be streamed live on the Indian Football Team’s Facebook & YouTube pages, something the athletes are eagerly anticipating, especially for the growth of their sport.
“I want this platform to grow more,” says Vignesh, “So that everyone recognises this as a sport too. Before, there weren’t huge tournaments and it’s slowly coming up in India, so I want it to grow and compete against other countries.”
“I would like the fans to tune in.” expresses Singh, “And I want them to support us on our journey to represent India. If we win the eNations it would only make our country, our eSports and our football community grow around the world.”
Chandarana echoes the sentiments of the entire Indian gaming community when he implores, “Support Indian FIFA as well because this is the first time we’re actually going to be broadcast on such a huge platform so just try to support the players as much as you can.”
The schedule for the rest of the tournament is as follows:
Semi-Final 1: Charan Jot Singh vs Siddh Chandarana, 2nd April – 3 PM IST
Semi-Final 2: Lokmanyu Chaturvedi vs Vignesh B, 2nd April – 5 PM IST
Finals: 4th April.
(Dustin Yarde / AIFF Media)