DUBLIN – Amidst rows of battered tables and chairs, some of which look like they’ve endured some rough spells at a British public school, is the world’s best kick off 2 players prepare to compete. The venue – nestled in the heart of Dublin and a stone’s throw from the infamous Temple Bar district – is the former Williams and Woods chocolate factory, a dingy graffiti-covered building that’s home to the city’s burgeoning creative community.
It’s not glamorous, but there’s a sense that this event belongs here. The gutted interior, with its peeling walls and windows that haven’t been cleaned in years, gives the building an artistic vibe, a sense that what’s made here could stand the test of time. This isn’t the kind of building that deals with trivial things like fashion and trends – and I suspect that’s just how the players like it.
Finally, kick off 2 is hardly fashionable. Released in 1990 for the Amiga and Atari ST, the classic soccer game was a strong competitor to the Smart football series. Both were played from a bird’s eye view and both used just a single button to pass, shoot and tackle. Misdirection and razor-sharp moves, as opposed to any deep knowledge of skill moves or special shots, were key to success.
And yet, despite the age and simplicity of the game compared to modern counterparts like FIFA and Pro Evolution footballEvery year the world’s best players come together to compete in the kick off 2 World Cup. The first was held in 2001, hosted at the offices of Anco in Dartford, England, the now-defunct publisher that released the game in 1990. It was organized by the Kick Off Association (KOA), a collective of elite players and avid fans who continue to run the annual tournament.
“This is the first year I’m really participating, but I’ve been a member of the Kick Off Association for 15 years. It’s a new experience for me,” smiles Pedro Quaresma, a Dublin-based Portuguese who is a key member. of the organizing committee of the KOA.
“In terms of general organization, I was part of the very first [World Cup]”, continues Pedro. “But local players take care of the regional logistics, so in England the English players take care of it. The 2002 event in Athens was provided by Greek players. This is the first event we’ve held in Ireland, so it’s the first time I’m organizing it so directly.”
Dublin, Pedro explains, had to to deserve the right to host the 2015 World Cup, just as countries bid for the real thing.
“Every year there are bids for different locations to host and the community votes on which place is most suitable for everyone. When we prepare a bid, we first propose a date for the tournament and a location in the area that we represent. -in this case Dublin. Overall plans like hotels, the final competition format and things like that are then put forward. Other people from other places will do the same. This year we had to beat a bid from Sweden, which was also a strong candidate.”
Previous locations included Rome, Milan, Copenhagen, Cologne and the aforementioned Athens. These events have taken place everywhere from town halls and conference rooms to hotels and barns. The tournament is a far cry from the stadiums, energy drink sponsorships and crowds of cosplayers typically associated with modern e-sports, which is dominated by the likes of Starcraft II, DOTA 2and League of Legends. In the world of kick off 2, each individual, as opposed to the single elite competitor, is considered an essential cog in the machine.
Anyone is eligible to play as long as they are willing to pay the €50 (£35 or ~$52.50) entrance fee and cover their own expenses for the duration of the trip. Depending on your background, that may or may not be a significant amount of money, but for the players and organizers of the tournament it is a small price to pay.
There aren’t many KOA members in Ireland, which forced Pedro to “go ballistic” on his credit card to secure enough Amiga 500s and CRT televisions to run the game. The result is a charming fusion of gray and beige, some consoles and screens significantly older and more war-torn than others.