AFC Richmond has been promoted.
The fictional club in the Apple TV+ hit show "Ted Lasso" will be a playable team in the EA SPORTS FIFA 23 video game, it was announced Wednesday. The Greyhounds will appear, by default, under the Rest of the World category and can be swapped into career mode, kickoff and in online play. The character Ted Lasso, depicted by Jason Sudeikis, will be available in career mode.
"I am truly fortunate, and deeply grateful, to have had many special moments in my career thus far, and I consider this experience among the best of them," Sudeikis said in a statement. "As long-time fans of EA SPORTS FIFA, having Ted Lasso and the whole AFC Richmond squad incorporated into the newest version of the game is truly a dream come true for myself and the rest of the fellas."
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Perhaps no one from the show is as excited about the development as Phil Dunster, who plays star striker Jamie Tartt. Dunster has a vivid memory of his first time playing the game -- the soundtrack from FIFA 99 has stuck with him for more than two decades -- and said it has been a big part of his life ever since.
"[Playing FIFA is] genuinely the closest thing I've had to addiction," Dunster told ESPN, laughing. "Normally, I would play career mode with AFC Wimbledon because that's my team. Then you make your way up to the top and it's great to see [Leo] Messi playing at Plough Lane."
With the addition of AFC Richmond, Dunster said he will likely have to change his approach and help bring glory to the Nelson Road, as the Greyhounds' stadium will also be part of the game. The characters Roy Kent, Sam Obisanya and Dani Rojas will be featured as well.
For Dunster, the reality that a character he plays as an actor will be in the game represents yet another surreal moment that has come from his association with the sitcom. When he was originally cast, there was no anticipation the show would turn into an internationally acclaimed series. In fact, his initial excitement stemmed from the fact that he would be technically getting paid to play the sport he grew up obsessed with.
"The weekend that I found out that I got the job, the thing I was most excited about was the fact that we had football rehearsals, which for me as an avid lifelong football fan, that was the coolest thing," he said. "Expectations were very different from what the show turned out to be. It was mostly about the fact that I could pretend to be a professional footballer. I could tell everyone that I was being paid to play football now."
The drawback to the show's success, he said, is that now when he shows up to five-a-side games around London, the expectation from those he plays with is different.
"People would be like, 'Aren't you that guy from "Ted Lasso?" Aren't you supposed to be like a Premier League footballer?'" Dunster said. "And I would be rubbish by comparison and they'd be like, and that was very embarrassing for me. It's happened a couple times."
His character, Jamie Tartt, is far from rubbish. On the show, he was good enough to play for Manchester City and a key member of Lasso's squad.
Dunster had yet to be informed what Tartt's player rating was in the game but was willing to speculate.
"I think Jamie is 25. He's not yet capped for England, so he's not that level, but he's also a hot shot striker. Listen, Harry Kane's been playing for England. It's hard to be an English striker because Harry Kane is always fit," Dunster said. "So that's probably why [Tartt] hasn't been like at the top, top, top of his game, haven't given the opportunities. But he was at City -- really, really promising player. So with all of those things in mind, I reckon he's -- I'm going to say overall 84."
Turns out, Dunster's logic lined up with the creators of the game. A spokesperson for EA Sports FIFA later confirmed that Tartt was given an 84 overall rating, which puts him a point behind Leicester City's Jamie Vardy and Chelsea's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
FIFA 23 will be released on Sept. 30.