Fantasy Football, If Anything, Helps Appreciate Rigour of 38-game season

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It’s little gain saying that we’re in the ultra-modern era of football (well until a more modern one is reached), of players being brands, goal celebrations almost as important as the goals themselves, managerial handshakes in the spotlight, social media banter, and what not. But not many things signify this era like fantasy football, that virtual side of the game, where fans from all around have as busy a Friday as actual managers, tweaking and changing, and have as reflective a Monday too, looking back with equal lamentation or joy at the respective failure and success of their ‘masterplans’.

I’ve been involved in the Premier League’s official fantasy league for the past three seasons, the previous two of which have had a similar. Before the recently-concluded campaign, it had been start with optimism, then because you have more important things to do (and because you can’t go far in it anyway) you forget such a thing exists, then remember at the season’s embers to take things seriously (most especially in 2015/16).

But this time was different- not that there weren’t more important things to do. There was a private league with a close-knit bunch of… let’s call them people, which made bragging rights, as well as time to be spared more glaring. Suddenly every week was for checking the news, every negative on the injury front was a disaster. Sergio Aguero crashing in the Netherlands in September didn’t cause just Pep Guardiola headaches; Sadio Mane getting sent off didn’t leave just Jurgen Klopp brooding, it mattered to all managers, either with real or virtual concerns.

Over the 10 months of the season, it was almost like real management (maybe that’s a bit much), the table was followed weekly. Those who arrived late weren’t expected to get up and running, those whose attention switched elsewhere dropped down the standings. Advice was sought, reminders were issued, heads were scratched. And at the end of season, someone tops the charts, while others rue might have been, mistakes they made, gut feelings they ignored. The worst part is, no room for correction, the season has passed, time to brood and wait for the new season, another 38-game slog. Sound familiar to the real world?

Although, there’s only so much comparison you can make with fantasy and the real world, there are no tactics in the virtual world, no real outburst of passion, the rewards of the real world are obviously and significantly, as well as the demerits, plus virtual managers yell at actual managers, they have no control over who plays. Oh, and virtual managers don’t get sacked.

You could ask, isn’t the great and mighty Football Manager a managerial Westeros as well? True, but you could play out a season in Football Manager in three days, or less, and everything that happens is up to you, plus you get sacked in FM world. In the pure fantasy world (rather, a not Football Manager virtual world), you don’t decide who starts, who goes off in the 66th minute when you need points, and once it’s over, you wait the summer before you go again. On the bright side, no pre-season.

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