It’s a footballing story that probably wouldn’t look out of place on FIFA 19’s “The Journey”- a young, under the radar English player who lights up the scene in his debut season and earns a move to a big European club.
That’s exactly what has happened to 22-year old Luke Craft. However, Craft is no prolific front man, towering centre back or midfield maestro.
He is, in fact, in control of every position on the pitch. That’s because Craft, better known by his gamertag “Crafty95”, is a competitive FIFA player, and he’s just put pen to paper on a contract with former Ligue 1 champions LOSC Lille.
Known for producing footballing talents such as Eden Hazard and 2018 World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard, Lille began their Esports journey in October last year by signing Nathan “Sneaky” Nayagom.
Crafty, who lives in Cornwall, joins him after an incredible debut year in FIFA that saw him reach the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final at the O2 Arena in London and finish 20th in the overall rankings- all as a free agent.
However, his performances put him on the radar for those in the market to sign a young FIFA eSports star.
There was much speculation about where Crafty would end up, with many hedging their bets on a move to top FIFA eSports organisation Hashtag United or the new eSports team at Wolverhampton Wanderers. A contract on the continent with a big French football club was certainly out of the blue.
“It feels good to no longer be a free agent,” Craft told GiveMeSport after announcing his deal with the French side. “I had a bit of a feeling that if I waited long enough a good offer would come.
“I had received a few offers, but not as many as some people thought I had...and not all were serious really. Playing under a football club was always what I wanted to do, so it was an easy choice for me and after going over to Lille to sign I know I’ve made the right decision.”
Craft will now be donning the red Lille jersey at all the major tournaments in the new (and rather busy) FIFA 19 Global Series, which includes a host of new competitions, including six FUT Champions Cups, the eClub World Cup and a never before seen eNations Cup - an England call up perhaps beckons?
For the meantime, the focus will be on the club competitions. But why are so many football clubs so keen to succeed at eSports as well as traditional sports?
“I think more clubs are getting involved with eSports as it’s a rapidly growing scene,” said Crafty. “There are some places now where eSport is the biggest sport in their country.”
It’s not only the clubs that are getting involved in FIFA.
Official football leagues around the globe are scrambling to reach an eSports audience, with the Premier League, Saudi Arabian League and Danish Superliga all recently announcing their own eLeagues in partnership with the Global Series.
They join the likes of the eBundesliga, eMLS and eLigue 1, in which Crafty’s new team play.
FIFA 19 finally looks set to break through in the world of traditional sports.
In what is a big year for both Craft and the Esport he loves, it will be exciting to see if both can reach new heights.