The 31-year-old, who has been at Old Trafford since 2011, created Rebels Gaming back in November to create a “state-of-the-art” environment for the city’s most talented eSports stars to shine. eSports has shot to prominence in recent years, enjoying rapidly expanding coverage from British and European broadcasters and the leading UK-licensed sportsbooks. The likes of Ladbrokes now operate a wide range of verticals, aside from the obvious sports markets, including eSports, virtuals and politics.
In Spain alone, the country’s eSports market is on the verge of taking off in a big way. According to Deloitte, eSports enjoyed a 49% penetration rate among Spaniards in 2020, with tremendous potential for expansion in the months and years ahead. Since 2014, the country has had its own “Superliga” for League of Legends eSports professionals. There’s also the “eLa Liga Santander” for FIFA gamers and the “Rising Series” for Valorant eSports enthusiasts. All of which have combined to usher in a new era for competitive video gaming in Spain.
De Gea keen to promote diversity, entertainment and raw talent in his home city
As the founder and president of the Rebels Gaming team, de Gea is the latest professional footballer to spot an opportunity to invest in eSports’ growth curve. The team already has a first-class headquarters, where the employed team members can train, socialise and prepare for big tournaments on-site. De Gea was quizzed about his passion for eSports by Manchester United’s in-house matchday magazine, Inside United. De Gea said he had a friend name Jose that he “trusts and works with”. He said that he is “in love with video games” and the pals made it their mission to “make [their] own club”.
De Gea said that he is “really proud” of what they have been able to achieve with Rebels Gaming thus far. The team is being primed to compete professionally in three fields – Valorant, Rainbow Six Siege and League of Legends. Although one might think that de Gea would take a silent partner role in the running of the Rebels Gaming team, that could not be further from the truth.
He believes his experience at the pinnacle of professional football can be imparted on the Rebels Gaming team, both in terms of his mentality and motivation. De Gea is someone that enjoys thriving under pressure and the media glare of playing in a Manchester United jersey. The Spaniard said that it’s little difference “if it’s a video game or if it’s football”, the pressure is “always there” for professionals competing among the elite of their respective industries.
What are De Gea’s hopes for Rebels Gaming?
As someone that’s worked hard to play for one of the biggest football clubs in the world, de Gea is determined for his eSports team to achieve similar success and become a “proper brand” that’s established throughout European eSports. He is passionate about Rebels Gaming becoming a team that can “compete with the best” in the continent and beyond. De Gea also acknowledges that eSports is a great opportunity to “build some entertainment” for Spanish gaming fanatics “to enjoy”. He is a professional footballer that’s been brought up to entertain, even as a goalkeeper, with his skillset enabling him to start attacks from the deck while repelling opposition attacks with his hands.
De Gea has also been a vociferous champion of gender equality in the world of eSports. So much so that Rebels Gaming has established a female Valorant team. De Gea wants to use Rebels Gaming as a platform to “make visible the female talent that exists in eSports”. The five-strong female team recently begun its inaugural Valorant competition, which is due to end on May 7th.
MediaCom revealed last year that well over two-fifths of active video gamers are women. Spanish women appear to buck this trend further still, with 42% of active gamers said to be female.