As Forest Green Rovers embark on their debut season in the Football League, it is also their first landing into the gaming world with FIFA18. Celebrating a season of firsts and a milestone moment, the club and EA Sports opened the doors to The New Lawn and offered the clubs' players and exclusive opportunity to be scanned into the forthcoming game. Treatment more akin to those teams at the top of the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and beyond, it means that the Forest Green Rovers players will be among a select few whose faces will be as close to reality as possible, as they pop up in the game. And you just need get ultimate team coins to choose this team in FIFA 18.
An ensemble of media present too, we had a chance to see just what goes into bringing life-like features through to a game with as much accuracy as possible. Hundreds of leads, lights flashing and cameras to pick up every angle, it's no small task.
Forest Green Rovers are also a club of bespoke proportions. Much has been made of their all vegan offering on a match day though from the back rooms to pitch side, and even the pitch itself, things are done a little differently in sunny Nailsworth. Part of the Ecotricity group, they are a club with sustainable values and having made their way out of the tiers of Non-League, they now find themselves in the EFL - doing all they can to keep rising too.
Imagine the moment you go from the non-league world to the professional game. The step up into the spotlight from part time player, to full-time pro. The chanced to establish yourself as a full-time football league player is an opportunity like no other. The players at Forest Green Rovers have that feeling going through their veins. In getting to know what that’s like we spoke to Dan Wishart and Shamir Mullings about the prospect of a debut season as a player on FIFA18.
Let’s talk FIFA. Just how big is it for you guys?
Shamir: Massive, it’s huge. I play it every day and we take it on the road.
What’s it like to have the guys from EA Sports come down to the stadium and photograph you and scan you so that you can properly go into the game?
Shamir: It’s almost overwhelming a little bit. You know, you see this sort of thing happening at top Premier League club and things like that. Now that it’s here, with us, we almost feel like we’re at the top [laughs], it’s a real privilege.
You’re going to be the only team in the football league to have your actual faces in the game, it’s very cool…
Dan: That was the surprise for us. We’re buzzing to get in there, it’s a great surprise to come into and shows the appeal of this club.
Shamir: To be someone that plays this game every single day… I’m going to now go home and I’m never going to pick the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona. I’m playing as Forest Green, forever.
Dan: Absolutely, I’m buying myself for Chelsea. Straight away. [laughs]
You get the joy of being able to play football for a living but then to have the opportunity to go into the game and get a touch of special treatment, that’s got to be a good taste of what’s on offer if you do well in football?
Shamir: Of course. You can turn around and be in FIFA. It’s surreal when you come from we have and battled to get into the League.
Dan: For me, I’ve never played in the League, I’ve always played in Non-League, so it’s a massive achievement. It’s a bit of a sign as to where we’re at and I look at it as an achievement and somewhere to kick on from. All my friends have messaged me today saying they can’t wait to buy the game and stuff like that. So everyone is buzzing.
Do you guys have some rivalries in the team, are you all playing FIFA?
Dan: Everyone plays it. A lot of us at the club share a house and we’re always playing the game. We’re always on FIFA so it’s big for us as a team.
How about this season, how much are you looking forward to getting stuck into it?
Shamir: Just can’t wait. We played Barnet on Saturday which was a massive test for us. We’re looked at as the underdogs of the league and everyone looks at us, expecting us to kind of crumble. I feel like we’re going to do really well in this league and personally my target is for the club to go straight up, in the top three. If that doesn’t happen and we fall short and get to the playoffs then I’d still see that as a massive achievement.
What’s it like to be at a club like this, or to join a club like this, is it different to a club you’ve been at before?
Shamir: Definitely, for me from the surroundings to the support. I’ve only played non-league all my life too. Apart from being a scholar but then you’re under 18 so it’s all been incredible. I’ve been to games before for other teams where there’s just a man and his dog watching and now we’re getting a few thousand a week.
Dan: Things like being on Sky and playing in front of big audiences. Having people watch like that, it’s great to be a part of.
How ready for it do you feel now that things have kicked off, do you feel ready for that challenge?
Dan: Definitely, 100%. All the boys are together. We’re a good group this year and everyone is confident in their own ability as well as a collective. We all think we can do well.
Shamir: What I’d say about us is that we strive off of one another so if one person is not doing what they should be, we’ll give them the stick that they need to get back into it so that they say “you know what, I need to pull myself together”, we literally work off each other and I think that’s really good. There’s no bad eggs in the camp.
Are there any particular fixtures you’re looking out for already?
Shamir: MK Dons is a big one. Their stadium, where they have come from - they’re a club with stature. To be fair, every game is a big game. Mansfield, Luton, Coventry all of those teams, there’s a lot of big sides in the league.
Dan: It’s the favourites really. You just want to put yourself against them and test yourself against those who are supposed to be the best in the league.
It’s a good chance to go and see new grounds and play in new places - do you enjoy that part of the experience?
Shamir: Yeah, I’ve never played at Coventry before, that’s a big ground. Little things, like the rivalries with Swindon and Cheltenham and Newport. We’ve got matches like that which will bring the community together. It’s going to be a massive showcase as to what we can do and who we are.
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