Life imitated art when Brazilian soccer pro Wendell Lira announced his retirement from the sport yesterday (July 28). Instead, the 27-year-old will launch a career playing Fifa soccer videogames. “It is almost impossible to stop playing football to live as a gamer, but God gave me this opportunity,” the striker told Globoesporte.com.
Lira isn’t a run-of-the-mill player, either. He won Fifa’s Puskas Award for the best goal of 2015, beating valiant efforts from the likes of Lionel Messi. The award is decided by popular vote by visitors to Fifa and France Football’s websites. Previous recipients include superstars Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Here’s Fifa’s official description of Lira’s glorious volley, scored for Goianésia:
As he strode into the opposition penalty area, Wendell Lira exchanged a quick glance with his team-mate on the ball, who promptly lofted a pass over the defence. Without breaking his stride, the forward twisted around and leapt into the air to connect and bury a wonderful bicycle-kick.
And the effort on video:
Lira is apparently as good with his thumbs as he is with his feet. He beat the world’s best Fifa gamer, Abdulaziz Alshehri, 6-1 when the two met at a gala dinner in Zurich in January. Appropriately enough, it was the very dinner where Lira was handed the Puskas award.
E-sports generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue every year, but the emphasis to date has been on team strategy games like Starcraft. The sports world, particularly soccer, has made moves recently to stoke interest in the virtual versions of their games. Mega-clubs like Manchester City have even been assembling their own e-sports squads in hopes of reaching younger fans who are as enthralled by action on a screen as on the pitch.