Cihan Yasarlar recently joined Schalke, not as a footballer but as a gamer. In an interview with DW he discussed the entry of football clubs into eSports and a one-on-one duel against Schalke star Eric Choupo-Moting.
DW: How does it fee to be under contract with a club like Schalke?
Cihan Yasarlar: It is a great feeling to be part of this institution. I represent a real football club and I am unbelievably proud to play for Schalke. I am happy to be here and I hope to stay with Schalke in the future.
You recently competed in an eSports match against Timo "TimoX" Siep from Wolfsburg in a building next door to the stadium in which Wolfsburg and Schalke played in the Bundesliga on the same day. What was it like to represent the Royal Blues right next to the stadium?
That was a new expierence. The match was the first between two Bundesliga sides. I hope that more Bundesliga teams do the same in the future so we can create an eSports league just as big as the Bundesliga.
What has changed for you now that you get to wear the jersey of a venerable club like Schalke 04?
That has really given me a boost. Schalke have good fans, they are passionate and real. Their support of course motivates me to give my best for the club on the eSports stage.
You are now the teammate of a number of football stars. Have you met some of them?
Yes, I got the chance to play FIFA against Eric Maxim Chuopo-Moting on the day that I signed my contract. It was an incredible feeling. I never thought that I would be able to come so far through gaming and get to play against a professional footballer. That was great and I am very proud of it. We (gamers) have been welcomed into the club and they have made us feel valuable.
Did Chuopo-Moting stand a chance against you?
A chance? Not at all (laughs). In the virtual world, I dominated the match but he's better on a real pitch.
Of course you are still overshadowed by professional footballers but given the growing interest in eSports, do you sometimes feel like a star as well?
Obviously we are not as well known as the footballers but the people that are interested in eSports recognize us. During the game in Wolfsburg, there were a few fans that wanted to get my autograph. Games like League of Legends are very well-known but the popularity of FIFA is bound to increase in the future, and that should make us more famous.
What is your training like?
There are currently four of us on Schalke's eSports team and we usually play against each other or against other friends. We share our tactics with each other and talk about our formations. Then we put everything to work in the game and this is how we develop our strategy. Whenever a new version of FIFA comes out, we spend a lot of time adjust to the new game. We also play online and offline tournaments so we can measure ourselves against other players.
When will you play in a packed stadium?
I hope soon! It would make me very proud to play in front of a lot of people.
The interview was conducted by Nik Peters
Cihan Yasarlar is 23 years old and has been playing computer games professionally for years, most recently specializing in the EA Sports football title FIFA. Since mid-2016, he has been under contract with Bundesliga club Schalke in its newly founded eSports division. Before joining Schalke, Yasarlar played for the German team SK Gaming.