It is rather the exception that an active football professional openly expresses criticism of their own club or association. So it caused a sensation when Thiago from FC Bayern on Twitter expressed horror about itHow hesitant the officials behaved to initially stop playing in the Bundesliga because of the Corona crisis.
As quickly and unfiltered as the criticism arose, it quickly disappeared: Thiago defused his message after only a few minutes. The mechanisms seem to be working in professional football, and very few express their opinions so openly in public. If they do, they will face consequences.
Feedback culture is different in virtual football. There, the critical interaction between e-athletes and officials often contributes to the entertainment factor.
When a new title in the Fifa series appears, which all active players have to switch to, the critical voices in the community are regularly loud. The fact that there are limits here, too, is shown by the rift between professional Kurt Fenech and game manufacturer EA Sports.
The controversial Fifa professional
Fenech, who plays under the name “kurt0411”, has been a big player in the Football simulation Fifa known. No professional criticizes EA as sharply as the Maltese. But now his controversial appearance was doomed to him: the EA sports account was blocked at the end of February. For a professional footballer, this is tantamount to being without a club.
Feedback and constructive criticism are always welcome. If borders were crossed, one had to protect one’s own communities and employees, it said. Fenech is thus initially excluded from all FIFA competitions and live events; he can no longer play for prize money.
“Never said anything that I shouldn’t have said”
The 24-year-old sees himself in the right. On Twitter and the streaming portal Twitch, he told his more than 100,000 followers: “I never said anything that I shouldn’t have said.” Inquiries from SPIEGEL regarding the allegations left Fenech unanswered.
“Kurt” is convinced of himself, that is part of the image of the professional. On every occasion he describes himself as the “best FIFA player ever”. If he is defeated by an opponent, the inadequacies of the game are the cause. In a version programmed according to his ideas, he could beat anyone, he once said. He stylized his ongoing resentment over FIFA into his trademark.
Recently, Fenech’s critical statements increasingly turned into insults. He already received a two-month ban from EA in 2018 without any major impact on his behavior. First he announced the end of his career, a little later he made his comeback in a stream.
When he insulted HSV professional Niklas “HSV NHeisen” Heisen during an online game in October 2019 and spat several times on a scarf with the EA logo, he was again excluded from all Fifa events.
The FIFA community is divided
When Kurt was now banned from insulting Twitch, the majority of the FIFA community showed solidarity despite everything. Under the hashtag #FreeKurt, fans formed to share their displeasure with EA and Fifa. But not everyone is ready to give the controversial e-sportsman an absolution for his behavior. Streamers and e-athletes in particular see Fenech’s behavior in a more differentiated manner.
YouTuber Tim “Wakez” Soltau told SPIEGEL that he could understand Fenech’s outbursts of emotion, but think that professionals in particular must abide by the rules: “Every player knows when the emotions go away with you and you get annoyed about conceding goals. I also open my mouth in the stream when something bothers me, but I always stay constructive. ” He emphasized the responsibility that a streamer has with a public platform.
“If we only complain, then it doesn’t go down well with the fans – after all, we earn money on the one hand, and on the other hand we have a role model function,” said FIFA professional Marcel “DonChap28” German from Hannover 96 to SPIEGEL. Although Kurt was often right in his criticism of the game, he still considered the lock justified. The 27-year-old often misses the respect among the players and thinks that EA should do much more.
“He deliberately maintains his bad boy image”
EA Sports doesn’t seem to mind the criticism much – at least economically. Fifa 20, the latest edition of football simulation, had sold more than 1.5 million copies in Germany by the beginning of the year.
And “Kurt” also seems to benefit from his behavior. When he switched to the competitive game Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), his fans remained loyal to him. “He consciously maintains his bad boy image and will earn even more with it,” says Deutscher.
His first stream, titled “The Revolution Begins”, reached over 18,000 viewers – as many as all active Fifa 20 streams combined at this time. A huge success for PES, because the Japanese game maker Konami usually doesn’t stand a chance against FIFA on Twitch.
When asked by SPIEGEL, Konami said that they welcome every new player and streamer, including “Kurt”. But they too would punish negative online behavior that is directed at other players or employees. “We listen carefully to player feedback and refer to it as we develop the latest version.”
The list of “Kurt” will surely be long.