*After years of playing experience, in 2014 Thomas Temperli founded an academy for players from Switzerland and Germany as one of the first eFootball coaches in the world. Since then, he has coached a large number of players and teams. These include the Manchester City eSports team and Mesut Özil's M10 eSports team. Since June 2020, he has been Head of eSports at "by the way communications" and in this context, he is also in charge of the Swiss Football Association's eFootball project. As a coach, he trains and supports the Swiss national eFootball team.
Thomas Temperli, you are well known in eFootball. But you also used to play on real pitches. How did you get involved in eFootball?
Thomas Temperli:* When I was younger, I played traditional football in the Swiss Promotion League. For us young football players, eFootball always played a role in our lives. After school we went to training, then did our homework, and later met online playing FIFA. I quickly realized that I had a talent when it came to eFootball. At some point, I got ambitious and registered for my first competitions. This ambition for competitive sports applies not only to traditional football, but also to eFootball. My experience with physical football and the knowledge I gained from it always came in handy online.
In your opinion, how has eFootball developed since then?
It is already highly professional today. Both UEFA and FIFA offer comprehensive support and are driving the development of eFootball.
Do you think that virtual sports have gained more attention recently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Absolutely. There were numerous cancellations in physical sports due to the crisis. eFootball benefited from this and often served as compensation – for example, on television. Without COVID-19, we would not have had so much airtime due to canceled traditional football match broadcasts.
You said earlier that your experience in traditional football has been an advantage in online play. What important skills from physical sports can be transferred to a digital setting?
Players who are involved in traditional football often show a better tactical understanding of the sport. Being active in traditional football or watching games helps players to understand online motion sequences and to develop an eye for how opponents behave. The digital conversion of football comes very close to reality in every way. A fundamental interest in football is therefore imperative for a FIFA professional.
What other skills does a professional eFootball player need to have?
You need to have skill, good hand-eye coordination, and the ability to react quickly. But most important for me is the mental strength of the players.
Players need to know how to deal with nerves and be able to fully concentrate. A single competition game demands absolute attention for two lots of six minutes. In competitive sports, it is often this mental strength that decides victory or defeat. The team with the better mental strength wins. Mindset is therefore also a decisive criterion for the composition of the team.
So how do you choose the players?
I let the candidates play, watch them, and play against them myself. That way, I can check the characteristics of each player. What game strategy does the player follow, do they have a feeling for the game, and how do they make their decisions? Like traditional football, eFootball is a decision-making sport. Should I shoot for the goal? Should I run forward? Should I pass the ball? This is a talent that the candidates have to have. As a coach, I can encourage this talent, but a player must have it in their nature.
In March 2020, the Swiss Football Association (SFV) founded the Swiss national eFootball team. How did this come about?
eFootball has long been a topic of discussion for the Swiss Football Association. When UEFA then announced the UEFA eEURO 2020, the association decided to put together a team.
Credit Suisse has been the main sponsor of the SFV since 1993, and supports all national teams – including the national eFootball team. How important is this sponsorship for your team?
Credit Suisse is a very important sponsor for us, because the Credit Suisse brand is very closely associated with football and the SFV in the industry. In my contact with the bank, I sense that Credit Suisse has already become very involved with the topic of eSports. It is all the more important for eFootball and its credibility that such major brands get involved. And at Credit Suisse, eFootball is definitely taken seriously.
What are your duties as coach of the national eFootball team?
Well, in October EA Sports will release the new FIFA 21. As a coach, it's part of my job to get to know the game well, so I have to play a lot myself first. That way I can understand the changes and get a feeling for the new game.
Furthermore, the tasks for me as an eFootball coach do not differ that much from those of a traditional football coach. I organize training camps and training matches. I look at past games and analyze the opponents. I have a database with information about every player who plays at a high level worldwide, including their strengths, weaknesses, and characteristics of the respective game philosophy.
What is training like for the Swiss national eFootball team?
We meet and play online very often. I coach the players regarding their strategy and tactics. I regularly organize physical boot camps and training games against international opponents.
And real competitions?
Professional tournaments often take place on site. The teams play one on one. The team victory is then calculated from the individual games. The principle is similar to the Davis Cup in tennis. Among the several nations, the teams play in groups and rounds and a winner is chosen based on the overall result.
The Swiss national eFootball team has already played its first international matches. As a team, what have you taken away from these experiences?
We had both good and bad games. With targeted training, we will certainly be able to improve a lot and raise our level further. The players are also responsible for training regularly at home.
Last but not least, what do you see for the future? What are your hopes and plans for the national eFootball team?
Our next goal is to represent Switzerland at the FIFA eNations Cup and to compete with the best players.
For eFootball in general, I would like to see even more acceptance from society – from children, parents, and the whole field. My personal goal is to educate people even more, so that eFootball does not remain burdened with the negative prejudices that exist towards gaming. Players can gain a lot for their professional lives by learning tactics, training, concentration, and perception. eFootball is a highly social sport that connects whole nations.