Being the cover star of a major sports video game is a pretty sure sign of having ‘made it’ as a top athlete.
For years, football and gaming fans have been swallowed up in the world of EA Sports’ FIFA series and, before that, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer/PES, with new cover stars selected to lead each iteration of the games.
From Wayne Rooney and Ronaldinho, to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, being the player on the front cover is very much a huge deal.
Think about how iconic the top sports video games are, and how many people have played them over the years.
So many football fans hold incredible memories of spending hours on FIFA and PES and their various different modes through the years, and recall their favourite versions of the game often by the front cover.
But how can companies expect a game to be remembered as iconic if the player on the front isn’t an undisputed mega star in their own right?
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That is the exact reason why ‘Sean Dundee’s World Club Football’, a 1997 release, probably never took off as developers expected.
What’s that? You’ve never heard of Sean Dundee’s World Club Football? You’ve never even heard of Sean Dundee? Blasphemous.
We’re kidding, of course. You are forgiven for likely not having heard of a video game that was based around a striker who left Liverpool after one year, five appearances and zero goals. But it did actually happen. Seriously.
Who is Sean Dundee?
Born in Durban, South Africa, Dundee is a former footballer who carved out a near 30-year long senior career as a professional, playing as a striker and representing the Germany national team’s B team once.
His football career kicked off properly in Germany when he signed for Stuttgarter Kickers in 1992, and by 1995, he had worked his way up to the Bundesliga, signing for Karlsruher SC.
Dundee took to the challenges of top flight German football like a duck to water, scoring 16 league goals in his first season at Karlsruher and bagging a further 20 league goals in the following two campaigns, establishing himself as a prolific forward with his best years ahead of him in a top European league.
Sean Dundee’s video game
Perhaps it was a little premature, but at a time where sports video games were still blowing up, it probably wasn’t too surprising to see that Dundee had been made the cover star of a football simulation game developed by Ubisoft for the PC in 1997.
But they went one step further than just sticking him on the game’s front cover; they named it after him too. As such, ‘Sean Dundee’s World Club Football’ was born.
DONE DEAL: This summer marks 20 years since #LFC signed Sean Dundee.— A Funny Old Game (@sid_lambert) July 18, 2018
An abomination at Anfield, he’s also the most obscure footballer to have a video game named after him when “Sean Dundee’s World Club Football” was released on the PC. pic.twitter.com/flu1dgQNGd
When Liverpool were in need of a new striker in the summer of 1998 to bolster their attack and cover for an injured Robbie Fowler, signing a prolific and proven Bundesliga forward with the honour of being good enough to feature as a football video game’s cover star sounded absolutely perfect.
Flopping at Liverpool
And for just £2 million, Gerard Houllier and Roy Evans probably thought they’d just got the bargain of the century; a proven goal getter and a player with commercial appeal.
It quickly became apparent, though, that he was absolutely not up to the job. And far from a commercial asset as a result.
Clearly, Liverpool realised they’d had a bit of a nightmare as soon as they’d seen their new forward on the training field, as he went months and months without making his Premier League debut, unable to break into the side over Michael Owen and Karl-Heinz Riedle. And when Fowler returned from injury, it was clear he was on borrowed time.
Dundee finally managed some Premier League minutes in April of the 1998/99 season, but would make just three league appearances, adding up to a grand total of 37 minutes, for Liverpool. Add that to the lofty some of one appearance each in the FA Cup and the League Cup – again without scoring – and it sums up a truly bizarre and rather miserable spell at Anfield, that was over by the summer of 1999.
What happened to Dundee after leaving Liverpool?
He returned to Germany after just a season, signing for VfB Stuttgart, but it was clear that the failed move to the Premier League had shattered him. He struggled for form and moved to Austria Wien in 2003, where he failed to bag a goal in 18 appearances before returning to Karlsruher in 2004, who had since dropped into the German second tier.
Despite such a difficult run, and one that saw Dundee play at rather low levels after brief success in the 90s, nobody can ever take away the fact that he was a Liverpool player and, crucially, the cover star of a video game that was named after him in 1997. He has also since done commentary and punditry for the Bundesliga, in more recent years.
The game might not have taken off, but it’s always a cool memory to have if nothing else.