Tottenham Hotspur star Dele Alli has entered the exciting world of esports, joining Britain's leading esports team EXCEL ESPORTS as their global ambassador.
The long-term partnership will see the Spurs star work closely with EXCEL and their roster of talent, with the opportunity to benefit from his experience and knowledge of being an elite athlete to further develop their own psychological skill set, including how to deal with pressure better, overcoming challenges to perform at their highest ability and bouncing back from setbacks.
The partnership will also allow Dele to get hands on with EXCEL and learn everything from how to game on PC to understanding how esports brands operate.
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One of the players Dele will be working with at EXCEL is Jaden “Wolfiez’ Ashman, the UK's top Fornite player.
Wolfiez holds the record as the youngest gamer ever to win $1 million in a single esports tournament, after finishing as Runner-Up at the 2019 Fortnite World Cup aged just 16. Ashman was signed by EXCEL in May 2020 as their first foray into Fortnite esports.
The 24-year-old joins a growing list of current and retired footballers entering the world of esports, with the likes of David Beckham, Gareth Bale, Mesut Ozil, Sergio Aguero and others being involved with their own esports teams.
Speaking to our Reach podcast Level up! The Esports and Gaming Show, with the full episode with special guest Dele set to go live soon, the Spurs superstar told Mirror Football about how his love for gaming began and why he decided to join EXCEL ESPORTS as a global ambassador.
But for Dele, his first memory of gaming wasn't on a virtual football pitch, but on a virtual race track.
"It started with Mario Kart, I think, as far as I can remember, I think it was either a GameCube or a Nintendo, that was probably the first console that I played it on,'' said Dele.
"From playing when I was younger, trying to beat my quickest lap, it all started there and obviously as time has progressed and new consoles have come out I've fallen more in love with it.
"It's something I've been passionate about since I was younger, sort of alongside football, well obviously football was first, but in my spare time when I wasn't training it was something I enjoyed doing.
As time has progressed, so has Dele's passion for gaming, with the England international revealing his current favourite gaming title.
"At the minute it's been Call of Duty, obviously they've just launched the new one (Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War), so I've been playing that a little bit.
"Before that it was Fortnite and NBA 2K, but at the minute it's definitely been more Call of Duty."
On April 21, 2018, Dele showcased his love of gaming on the biggest stage, performing the now iconic floss dance move as a goal celebration, after opening the scoring against Manchester United in an FA Cup semi-final.
The floss dance featured in popular video game Fortnite Battle Royale, released in 2017, as a dance 'emote' that can be performed by the in-game characters. As of May 2020, 350 million players have played Fortnite, with the floss dance's popularity sweeping the globe due to the game's huge success.
Dele revealed how his goal celebration came about and how he was surprised by the huge reaction to it.
"I had a lot of kids after asking me to floss!
"I couldn't actually believe the reaction, from whenever there were mascots or kids around the training ground or if I was out and I'd see kids, they would all say 'oh I saw your Fortnite dance!'
"I think obviously playing football and playing games at the same time, it's trying to enjoy it as much as I can and obviously bringing out the Fortnite dances was something that I used to do.
"I can't really remember how it came about but I always used to try and make up celebrations and the Fortnite dances was something that y'know, it was to my friends that I played Fortnite with, but obviously a lot of people could relate to it.
Dele also discussed the often overlooked positive of gaming, the way that games allow people to connect and communicate, even if they are halfway around the world, something that has been so important to people during this difficult year.
"I think it's a great way to communicate and speak to your friends, obviously with what is going on in the world right now, it's definitely a great way.
"But even before, for me personally playing football, you meet a lot of different people and become friends with different players.
"Everyone's career is different and their journey is different, so people end up moving away and they can be in different countries or the other side of England.
"Having PlayStation and gaming to go to, to stay in touch and stay in communication with your friends is definitely something that makes me love the games, love gaming and playing PlayStation."
Dele also revealed the worst, and best, Fortnite players he has played with, either in the England setup or at Spurs.
"I can definitely tell you the worst I've seen on it was Kieran Trippier.
"When he first started playing Fortnite, it was the first time he'd played PlayStation so he wasn't used to anything.
"Harry (Kane) used to play a lot, but obviously he's got two kids now so it's a little bit harder for him, but he used to play.
"But the best Fortnite player is definitely me!
However, Dele himself admits that he's 'average' at FIFA, compared to some of his compatriots.
"Trent (Alexander-Arnold) is very good, Raheem (Sterling) is pretty good as well, I've played against him a lot. They are two that I know, obviously Madders (James Maddison) as well, he has to be up there I think.
"I'd say I'm average, definitely in the England team, out of the footballers that I know that play, I'm probably mid-table.
"I'm not the worst but I'm not the best.
The former MK Dons midfielder also explained the reason he joined EXCEL as a global ambassador and explained how he'll be hoping to help their roster of esports professionals.
"For me they are one of the best teams in England if not the best.
"When we spoke to them and learned a bit more about them it was something very natural and I felt like we had a lot in common with the way they work and their philosophy
"The way they go about everything is something that I felt I could relate to, speaking to the team it was something that, stepping into the esports world for the first time, it was a great place to go.
"I think mentally, coming from playing football and being part of a team, competing at the highest-level, hopefully I can come and help as much as I can.
"At the same time, their talent is unbelievable, and I think I'm gonna learn a lot as well.
"As a footballer, playing PlayStation and playing games you get to a level where you feel like you're good, like you're good at the game.
"But then when you meet a pro or watch them play, the level is a lot different, it's very tough and they are very talented.
"With the younger kids, trying to help them as much as I can with my experience, in terms of life, playing sports, the different things I've been through, trying to help them as much as I can is something I will be looking to do.
"I'm looking to learn as much as I can, try and help to give my input and it's an honour for me to be a part of EXCEL and I'm really excited."
Dele is also very optimistic about the future of the esports industry, which is predicted to generate global revenues of $1.598 billion by the year 2023.
"I think it's very exciting, I think the more people I speak too, who aren't a part of it, they all love gaming so there are a lot of opportunities.
"It's something I've been passionate about for a long time but when you actually see how hard it is and how talented the people are who are involved, it's amazing.
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"Everything about gaming, the communication, the similarities between gaming and football is something a lot of people are interested in.
"It's definitely something that a lot of people are into, all over the world, and I think as time moves forward a lot of people are gonna put a lot more into it, so it's definitely exciting.
"Kids now when you speak to them, a lot of people want to be pro gamers, I think it's exciting and something a lot of people enjoy doing and I can see it moving forward in a big way."
*EXCEL was established in 2014 and has grown into one of the most prolific esports teams in the UK, helping to shape the landscape of competitive gaming in the country. It currently participates in two game titles, Fortnite and League of Legends. It's one of the founding members of the Legends European Championships (LEC), Europe’s leading League of Legends league.
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