Wondering how seriously real pros take FIFA 20? Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend has lifted the lid on dressing-room competitiveness when it comes to virtual footy – and reckons it’s just as feisty as the real thing.
“To be a sportsman you have to have that competitive streak, you have to be a winner,” explains the wideman whose former clubs also include Spurs, Ipswich Town, and Newcastle United. “It hurts when you lose any game. Whether it be a board game or a World Cup final. FIFA 20 is no different. I get pre-game jitters, I get nerves. 100 per cent.”
Townsend’s comments come in an interview furthering awareness of the Stay Intertoto Cup (opens in new tab) – have a look at the first six letters to understand the pun. It’s a FIFA 20 tournament aimed at raising money for NHS Charities. Fans can get involved on an app called Swipe (opens in new tab), turning predictions into cash prizes, testing their trivia, and donating to the NHS.
“To get invited to play FIFA 20, something you love, to try and help raise money for those people who are on the front line and helping to save lives, it was a no brainer,” he says. “The first tournament I entered we raised a lot of money and hopefully in this tournament we can raise a lot of money again and help contribute to the NHS.” At the time of writing, the tally stands at £4,000.
However, Townsend isn’t playing hard-done-by regarding life in quarantine, and accepts that there are many worse off than Premier League footballers. “I’m finding it alright,” he says. “I’m very fortunate I’ve got two young kids, so they’re keeping me occupied. I’m delving into their routine. When they nap, I nap. When they play I play – so I go along with what they do. Obviously, I’m missing football, but to be able to spend more time with the kids is nice. It’s a little silver lining in what are dark times.”
That focus on his kids has meant a fellow Palace winger usurping Townsend on the digital front: “On FIFA 20, Wilfried Zaha is so much better than me. FIFA 19, I’d like to think I’d be in with a shot of winning, but since I had my son in August, I’ve not really had much time for FIFA. To be good at FIFA you need to be playing it constantly, so I’ve lost my edge a little bit. I’m competitive now, but I have no chance of winning this Stay Intertoto Cup.”
As for the real sport, Townsend expects the season to be completed rather than abandoned – although he’s been given no clues as to when that may happen. “My view has always been that the league should finish, and I’m sure it will finish,” he says. "At the moment the Premier League and football is irrelevant, the only thing that is relevant at the minute is the NHS and saving lives – and us all chipping in and trying to do what we can to help them along the way.”
“When they do eventually beat this virus and football becomes relevant again, we need to be ready and to give people their football fix back and complete the season… Hopefully we can do that as safely as possible when the time comes.”