Galician Carlos Pereiras has free mornings. He is in no hurry to get up and, several times a week, goes to the gym to clear up. The tardies are another story. Right after lunch the good starts: group meeting with the sports manager, analysis of tactics with the coach and talk with the psychologist. Also six hours of training without leaving your seat. He is a professional player Call of Duty, one of the best known electronic sports, the so-called esports. It is part of the staff of the Vodafone Giants from Malaga. Before each major tournament, the club will appoint him and his teammates in the gaming house, a home where he participates in concentrations that last several weeks to improve his performance.
Founded in 2008, Vodafone Giants is the most successful club in Spain and the recent champion of national competitions Counter Strike Y Clash Royale. They have a dozen teams and more than fifty players – all men. Also a score of people between staff technical and personnel of departments such as administration, marketing or communication. Its structure is a good example of the volume of business of electronic sports in Spain, which moved 14.5 million euros during 2017, according to the Spanish Association of Video Games (AEVI). It is still far away from great powers such as the United States or South Korea, but it has risen like a foam in recent years thanks to a social mass that exceeds five and a half million spectators. The data handled by AEVI indicate that in Spain there are 15 million regular video game players and that the sector generates more than 8,000 direct jobs, with a turnover of 1,359 million euros in 2017. It represents 60% more than the combined volume of the cinema and music.
There is a swimming pool with hammocks, a lounge with a fireplace and a dining room where you can smell lentils and fried chicken prepared by a cook. Meals are monitored by a nutritionist
In the Giants' headquarters there is room for up to ten players, although rarely do so many match. Sometimes members of the team of League of Legends, those of Call of Duty or other video games. According to the needs. It is a huge house located in a residential area of Alhaurín de la Torre – a few minutes from the international airport of Malaga – which functions as a high performance center. There is a swimming pool with hammocks, a lounge with a fireplace and a dining room where you can smell lentils and fried chicken prepared by a cook. The meals are monitored by a nutritionist.
Residents spend, however, most of the day in a large room there are several video consoles. In the mornings they connect to improve their individual game, but there is also room for physical exercise, necessary to release stress. And, without time for the siesta, the real training starts every afternoon. It is very similar to that of any professional team: it includes an exhaustive study of the rivals, analysis of the tactics to follow in the next match and viewing of previous games to highlight successes and mistakes. Then they jump to their virtual playground to train a minimum of six hours. While they are operating the controls of the video game console, silence reigns and there are no external distractions. They are in their work. The practice time can reach eight hours. In the competition there are clashes that go to 10 or 11 hours and you have to be prepared.
"If it were not for the comrades, the concentrations would be much harder," says Carlos Pereiras. At 24 years old and known under the alias of LgendHe is already a veteran. Also a star. He is the only five times winner of the Professional Videogame League (LVP) in the modality of Call of Duty. Accumulate individual and team titles in the esports as Messi does in football. He just returned from an international competition in Las Vegas. "It has been incredible. It is a privilege to dedicate yourself to this, "he says. More than 700 teams participated in the tournament and the Giants achieved the 28th place, which allows them to continue to the next round, in mid-January and again in the United States. "It is important that our fans are proud of the team with results like this," he says. Speak like a professional soccer player. Your salary, however, is very different. Like his companions, his income is between one thousand and two thousand euros per month, far the highest paid in the world whose annual earnings can exceed one million euros.
Like other Spanish clubs, the Vodafone Giants have a dozen teams in different games like League of Legends, Counter Strike, Clas Royale, Fortnite or Dragon Ball. The majority are formed by five players. Almost all of them are Spanish, but there are also children from England, Serbia, the Czech Republic and Poland. "The arrival of foreign signings has become increasingly common due to the best level of the Spanish league, as explained from the LVP. That is why the concentrations in the Malaga house "are basic to establish bonds of trust between the players", as Pablo Asensio, trainer of Call of Duty. The technician values the cohesion of the group as an indispensable element for the titles. Also the mental aspect of his pupils, who must make decisions in less than a second.
Asensio devotes special attention to the cohesion of the group, as well as to the management of egos and the motivation of the day to day so that nobody thinks of lowering their arms in a bad moment of departure. At 27 years old and after a decade in the esports, is a vital piece of equipment where the average age is around 20 years. There are even younger, like the Ivan Ivan Rodriguez Yako, who at 19 years has been two seasons in the club from Malaga. Like any other young man, Yako he misses "social life" during his long training days.
"This type of profession is very idealized, but it is not worth anyone," says Bolivian Guillermo Mendoza, a sports psychologist at the club. His work focuses precisely on working on aspects such as concentration, trust or stress management with each of the gamers. The same issues that you would develop with any other high level athlete. In fact, Mendoza is conducting research with the University of Malaga, whose preliminary results indicate that the psychological and physiological response of professional players in esports they are equal to those who participate in traditional sports competitions. "That's why we treat them like athletes," he concludes. After Christmas, new days of concentration will arrive. There is no rest for professional players.