Fernando Palomo is a commentator for ESPN and on Spanish-language editions of the FIFA video game. This feature was written in Spanish and has been translated.
I have it on a pair of socks; why not? Each time my phone receives a call, the song rings; why not? My office is decorated with the graphic image of the last 10 finals; why not?
A few days before the Champions League final in Kiev, which Real Madrid won, I looked for a sock factory and asked them to stamp the European Cup's image and that's how the socks were born. If you read this and, at some point, want to reach me on my mobile, what will alert me to your call is the composition of Tony Britten, inspired by the hymns of the coronation of Handel. Yes, the sound of the Champions League anthem.
Is it possible that I'm obsessed with the Champions League? Why not? The Royal Spanish Academy dictionary defines obsession as "an idea that attacks the mind with tenacious persistence." But this is not about me, this is about what will add to that continuous and tenacious assault on my head and that will permanently make me live in Champions League "on" mode: Magic nights can be every day, now the competition has been added to the FIFA game. Something else adds to my obsession!
Aaron McHardy is an executive producer of the FIFA game, with almost a dozen years of experience in producing the most popular sports game on the market. I talked to him a few days before the global announcement of the acquisition of the new license. A former player with professional aspirations until injury obliged him to retire, McHardy has been involved in the production of the video game for more than a decade.
"It was one of the most requested features by our players," McHardy said by phone from Los Angeles, California. "It's that the Champions League is more than a license, it's the most recognized club competition in the world of football. We will integrate the experience of Champions League nights throughout the game. We want players to feel they are in a Champions League match."
The speed of McHardy's explanation is a reflection of the enthusiasm with which he describes the product offspring.
"I am very proud of how the environment has been generated, the presentation," he said. "Each cut of image will be as if it is seen in the television broadcast, with all the details. The arches through which the players walk when they enter the field, the patches on the shirts, the music."
(That music which makes the skin stand on end... or makes me pick up the phone if someone calls!)
The license does not only include the Champions League, but also the Europa League and UEFA Super Cup. McHardy adds that the Champions League will be a unitary mode in which gamers will have the opportunity to play the tournament from the group stage and reach the final. Meanwhile, the story of Alex Hunter will continue.
"This is the third and final season of The Journey, but you can absolutely expect that the Champions League will be a key issue in it," McHardy said. "More announcements will be made later in the summer. We will also integrate the license into the career mode, as well as in the UEFA Europa League."
FIFA 19 hits the markets on Sept. 28, with the added possibility of playing the most important club tournament in the world. Champions League top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo will adorn the cover for the second year in a row, but special editions will include company for the Portuguese international. Indeed, the "Ultimate Edition" will unite what the transfer market has not been able to achieve: Neymar with Ronaldo.
English commentary will be provided by Derek Rae, who covered the Champions League on ESPN for many years, as well as former Arsenal and England right-back Lee Dixon.
"[Champions League nights] are special nights and we have taken care of each one of the details, up to the change in the lighting of the stadiums," McHard said. "It is a fantastic opportunity, we know the UEFA Champions League is the best league in the world and that it is one of the trophies that players seek the most. The opportunity that they offer us is wonderful, to show the environment, everything that makes your skin stand on end when you hear the hymn."
Magical nights that, soon, will be every day.