Best of fr-enemies ready for NIVEA Men E-League encounter

It’s like Internazionale and Milan at the San Siro, Lazio and Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, Bayern and 1860 Munich – or even Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Western United at AAMI Park. Sometimes it really is a matter of keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer. 

For much of the past year, E-Leaguers Marcus Gomes and Mouad Zwed have been staging their own, personal replication of these turf wars in the heart of suburbia: taking on FIFA21 opponents from all around the world from the same patch of turf – or strictly speaking the same house - while separated only by a bedroom wall.

Now, the pair will do battle with each other when the E-League kicks off on Friday, bringing the fiercely contested Melbourne Derby to the online realm as they represent City and Victory respectively but, in a neat plot twist, it comes just as the housemates have been split up. 

Alas for drama-fuelled scriptwriters, a bitter, E-League-based feud isn’t to blame for the split, with Gomes moving out to share accommodation with Zwed’s Victory teammate Rick Tran and the pair remaining fierce, frequently bantering friends. 

Now entering its fourth season, the E-League’s return this weekend brings together some of Australia’s best esports athletes to compete across two days of intense e-competition. 

Individuals specialising on either a Playstation or X-Box console, two representatives of the A-League’s 12 clubs - Macarthur FC is set to join the competition for the first time in 2021 - will meet across 11 fixtures across two matchdays on Friday and Saturday, with all the fixtures streamed live on Twitch.  

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The duo with the highest cumulative will see their club crowned as E-League Champions for 2021, whilst the individual with the highest score on their respective consoles will receive a 'GOLDEN Champions Controller' and one of two available FIFA21 Oceania Cup Regional Finals seats - which itself serves as qualifying for FIFAe World Cup. 

Outside of the E-League, competitors such as Tran, Gomes and Zwed log minutes in their chosen platform nigh on seven days a week, 365 days a year - a necessity to both keep their skills and reflexes sharp and log enough rankings points to keep their place on various regional and worldwide leaderboards that govern tournament invitations. 

Usually, especially in a time of COVID, these contests are conducted online; with elite players organising friendlies against each other for non-competitive fixtures and arrangements for tournaments - such as this weekend’s E-League - carefully choreographed for competitors across multiple locations and timezones. 

This normally means playing players hundreds of kilometres away on the regular, but sometimes fate did throw up a few twists and turns for then-housemates Gomes and Zwed. 

“We were living together, and in one of the [OFC Regional] qualifiers we actually matched each other!” recalled Zwed.  “There were 60 odd players available and we’ve actually matched! 

“He was in the other room, I was in my room and we were playing each other. I was streaming but he was trying to concentrate but, somehow, I won on pens!”

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Though the two have met numerous times across a range of games in more informal settings, Gomes and Zwed are now locked at two games apiece in competitive FIFA play; the winner of their meeting on Friday set to secure bragging rights as they move ahead in the all-time series. 

“I think Mo is the only person that I’ve played every year that’s been with the same club,” said Gomes. 

“And on top of that, there’s a rivalry of City vs Victory. 

“We’re always getting told by people running City and Victory not to lose this tie, telling us we can’t lose, and it’s going to be the same this week.”
 

Beyond scoring bragging rights over each other - as well as the other players in the close-knit E-League community - this years tournament offers Gomes and Zwed an opportunity to further demonstrate their wares; the E-League attracting interest beyond the usual demographics that tune into their regular streams on Twitch. 

“It’s a great platform for us to show our skills and bring the world of esports to a more mainstream audience,” Gomes said. 

“It’s something that everyone looks forward to. It’s the biggest event for getting friends and family involved and watching because everyone knows about it and they always asks when it’s going to happen.

“Something that happens when I used to go overseas was that a lot of people would ask what team I played for and I’d say Melbourne City. 

“A lot of them from Europe or America would ask who they were, you start to explain the team and the league. I feel people then start to know about the league in general. 

“[That happens] whenever any player goes overseas from our region that has an affiliation with an A-League club it helps promote the club and help promote the league in general. 

“There’s a lot of good talent this year, probably the strongest field of players. There’s going to be a lot of close games and a close title race.”

A two-time competitor at the FIFAe World Cup, Gomes will be returning to the E-League as a Melbourne City representative for the fourth straight year this Friday, one of a select few that have managed to compete at every iteration for the same club. 

Another member of that clique is Zwed, who will return for the fourth straight season in 2021 as Melbourne Victory’s representative. 

“Being Melbourne Victory’s for four seasons in a row is massive,” Zwed, who impressively manages to juggle his esports exploits will full-time work and playing for NPL Victoria side Kingston City, said. 

“There were so many players that were better than me at the time and they’ve stuck with me for the past three seasons and show their faith in me. 

“I’m very excited for the season.”