Wexford Youths score in FIFA 17 video game
When Wexford Youths reached the premier division of the League of Ireland over eighteen months ago, the first thing that many supporters said to manager Shane Keegan was 'now you'll be in the FIFA video game'.
The club is included for the first time ever in FIFA 17 which was released in Ireland last Thursday much to the excitement of players and fans who rushed out to buy copies the minute the shops opened.
Winning promotion to the SSE Aircricity Premier Division in late 2015 was a proud achievement in real life but in virtual reality, appearing in the world's biggest-selling sports video game is a major deal conferring celebrity status.
The game was launched at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last Wednesday with Gary Delaney, nursing an injury and unable to train, proudly representing Wexford Youths alongside the other 11 League of Ireland first division teams.
Twenty-two year old Gary has played FIFA himself since he was seven or eight years old and said it was great honour to be featured in the famous video game although he described the experience of seeing himself on screen as a bit surreal.
'It is weird seeing yourself and the lads in the game,' he said, adding that the Fifa inclusion is a reward for what the players achieved last year.
'It's a big thing, absolutely. That was the first thing everyone said when we got into the premier division,' said Shane Keegan who was approached last Friday morning by an eight-year old neighbour asking him to autograph a newly-purchased copy.
And Shane's 13-year old brother was very impressed when he heard that the club might be getting a few complimentary copies.
The players are delighted to be involved as many of them play the game and will now be able to participate as themselves.
Six months ago, the club was asked to send photographs of its players to the Irish branch of EA Sports, the company that makes FIFA so that their physical looks could be replicated for the 2017 version, although, according to Gary Delaney, the resemblance is not that close and you wouldn't expect it at this level.
The club's jerseys are faithfully represented with the name of jersey maker Ben Brosnan of Body Bro on the top and main jersey sponsors SBO Bet based in the Isle of Man, across the chest.
'It's great publicity and great advertising for the club because it's a massively popular game that sells millions of copies.It's about 20 years since I played a computer game myself but you have adults as well as kids playing it. We'll definitely be more well known as a result,' said Shane who is also commercial manager of Wexford Youths.
Midfielder Shane Dunne said he has been playing FIFA for 10 years or more. 'I was coaching summer camps and the kids were asking me if I was going to be in Fifa. It's pretty cool to say 'yeah I'm in FIFA,' he said.
'It's cool that people can go and check you out in FIFA and play as you.'
Fifa is available in 51 countries worldwide for multiple game systems including playstation, Xbox, Microsoft Windows,IOS and Androids. The game has sold more than 100 million copies. On the cover of Fifa 17 is Marco Reus who was chosen by popular vote to replace outgoing poster boy Lionel Messi.