You're first up for TSG in the Bundesliga Home Challenge on Saturday. It is the first time that Hoffenheim have been involved in a Bundesliga-wide eSports event. You'll be representing TSG along with first-team player Munas Dabbur. How does that feel?
"For me as a TSG supporter, it is a very special occasion to be representing my club. I'm sure that Munas and I will make a strong team. He seems to feel very much at ease when it comes to virtual football too."
You've already had a lot of experience when it comes to eSports. You're a Top100 player on FIFA, you won the Werder eSports Cup last year and you have spent the last two years working as an elite coach for bPartGaming. How did you get into eSports and what does the role of a FIFA coach consist of?
"I've now been involved in eSports for four years. It started with the launch of the Weekend League. Almost every FIFA player knows that it can sometimes be a frustrating experience when you get stuck in the Weekend League. After my first Top100 results, I noticed that I seemed to have a certain talent for it. As a FIFA coach at bPartGaming, I try to help the lads to develop their game and to make gaming a more fun experience for them."
"A fantastic experience"
Since the start of this season, TSG Hoffenheim has been running its first project in the field of eFootball: the TSG-Fan eCup. The focus here is not on competition with other clubs, but rather to allow the public to have a news means of access to TSG. You also regularly take part in the tournaments and have already won once. What's your take on this competition and what was it like to play for the TSG-Fan eCup title in the gaming studio inside the PreZero Arena before the Bundesliga match against Fortuna Düsseldorf.
"It was a fantastic experience for me to be able to play in our own stadium and at the same time to be able to soak up some of the home matchday atmosphere. The TSG-Fan eCup is a superb opportunity to interact with TSG and to win great prizes. The fact that everyone can take part is something I really like, and the gaming studio with its view over the pitch is superbly set up too."
Your involvement in the TSG-Fan eCup is not your sole connection to Hoffenheim. For five years, you have been a TSG season ticket holder – despite the fact that you live in Bielefeld. How did that come about and how do you manage to travel to the home games every two weeks?
"It all started when TSG were promoted to the second tier in the 2006/07 season and then to the Bundesliga the following year. I was completely won over by the football that they played back then with players like Ibišević, Ba, Obasi and Salihović. It gave the league a new lease of life and even annoyed Bayern a little bit. That fascinated me back then. I have now been a Hoffenheim supporter for 14 years – and there comes a point when you have no choice but to go to the home games. After the first match comes the second, and then you want to keep being involved after that. I try to get to the majority of the games, even though it's not always feasible. I usually manage to get to something like 14 home games in a season. But when you see a good game and, in an ideal scenario, get the three points in the bag too, then the long journey home is a bit easier."
TSG aiming to "spring a surprise"
You'll compete in the opening game of the Bundesliga Home Challenge at 15:30 CET on Saturday. Munas Dabbur will then take over for the return leg. The opposition is SpVgg Greuther Fürth, who managed to finish in second place in this year's Virtual Bundesliga Club Championship. How do you rate your chances?
"As the runners-up, SpVgg Greuther Fürth are obviously a very strong opponent. But I'm sure that we can still manage to give a good account of ourselves and spring a small surprise. I followed the first #HOMECUP on Tuesday and was very impressed by the performance that Munas put in there as a hobby gamer. He was especially strong in the semi-final against Benedikt Bauer of VfL Wolfsburg, who himself is a full-time eSports professional, and so I am excited to see how it all turns out on Saturday."
The match between TSG Hoffenheim and SpVgg Greuther Fürth will kick off at 15:30 CET on Saturday and will be broadcast live via TSG's official YouTube and Facebook channel as well as the website achtzehn99.de. The DFL will show all the games live on the Virtual Bundesliga's YouTube channel.