FOOTBALL’S NEW GAMING GENERATION

REMEMBER when a schoolboy’s hopes of football stardom were fuelled by dreams of scoring the winner in a Wembley cup final, or perhaps the pride of donning their country’s colours at a World Cup?

Well wise up, granddad, because we all know that tomorrow’s stars are just as likely to be chasing the trappings of soccer success: the Baby Bentley, the mock tudor mansion and the pneumatic blondes.

Luckily for the 99 per cent of the population whose hands are more dextrous than their feet, there is a new way to live the life of Rooney – or at the very least indulge your fascination in what he gets up to after training.

Canny video games developers are cottoning onto the public’s appetite for footballers’ off-field antics and have created ever-more-detailed virtual worlds that incorporate titillation alongside tactics.

In I Am Playr, which bills itself as the world’s first point-of-view football game, you begin as a hopeful at the fictional River Park FC with your eye on the big time – and all that comes with it, naturally.

You have to make decisions about your dedication to training, as well as negotiating with shark-like agents and furious girlfriends who catch you taking advantage of your burgeoning reputation by playing the field.

It plays out in high quality first-person video, with real actors, ex-pros and an ever-changing storyline written by the people behind the Sky series Dream Team all adding up to a hugely immersive experience.

Big brands have already piled in, with Nike the principal partner and Alfa Romeo and Ginsters also on board with I Am Playr, which launched online earlier this year and boasts more than 140,000 monthly gamers.

Interestingly, so has former Arsenal and England defender Lee Dixon, who was invited to appear as a pundit and was so impressed that he invested in the project.

SPORT’S SLEAZY SIDE
Similarly, former Chelsea player and manager Gianluca Vialli has his own venture in Lords of Football, a game currently in the final stages of development that also flirts with the sport’s sleazy side.

In it you are cast as the manager who must not only devise a training regime and tactics to take your team to the top, but also keep an eye on your players’ out-of-hours behaviour.

Each of your stars has different vices, so the gamer is sometimes called on to scroll around his virtual town, which is laid out much like PC favourite Sim City, and literally drag a rogue midfielder out of a bar or a romantic liaison.

Vialli helped creators Geniaware with storylines based on his dressing room experiences – they rejected one anecdote about a player defecating in a team-mate’s shoe – and has high hopes that it will flourish.

There is no word yet on whether the latest footballer must-have – the superinjunction – will be making an appearance in either game, but in any case these games won’t remain well-kept secrets for much longer.