Imagine for a minute a young Wolves fan getting the chance to enjoy a kickabout with Raul Jimenez or Pedro Neto.
Well, when it comes to the virtual world of online gaming and the recently-arrived phenomenon of Rocket League, Wolves Foundation’s PL Kicks participants are about to enjoy the equivalent experience.
Because two of Wolves esports professionals – coach Joessi (Juicy) and captain Rix – are to lead a Rocket League masterclass session for Kicks participants this Friday evening, followed by a tournament the following Friday where the winner will get their very own chance to take on Rix themselves.
“Whilst we are not able to deliver face-to-face on PL Kicks at the moment, it is vital for us to still engage with our participants to ensure they still have that social contact and something to look forward to,” explained Luke Shearing, inclusion and cohesion officer with Wolves Foundation.
“The world of esports is huge for the young people we work with and as we are currently living in a virtual world this is a great opportunity to offer something a little bit different.
“The game that most of our participants are talking about at the moment is Rocket League, and when we mentioned we might be trying to do something with the Wolves esports players the excitement grew - it’s genuinely like having Raul Jimenez come to play football with them!
“We are really looking forward to the upcoming Rocket League events and are incredibly thankful to Rix and Joessi for offering up their time to support us.”
Rocket League is an online game which sees rocket-powered cars playing football, and Wolves have a team in the Rocket League Championship Series.
With Joessi as coach, the team comprises Rix Ronday, Luis Puenta Pena and Ole Van Doorn as part of an initiative supported by the University of Wolverhampton.
“On behalf of both Rix and myself, it’s crazy to think that there are people out there who look up to us,” said Joessi.
“But it’s an absolute privilege to be able to give back in this way, and to be able to interact with our young fans – we’re really looking forward to it.”
So too are the Kicks participants, who will be hoping to put all the tips from Friday’s masterclass into practice at the following week’s tournament, to be played on both Xbox and PlayStation.
“I love playing Rocket League, and I can play it with my mates during lockdown when I can’t see them,” said Che.
“I’m really excited to see the professional esports players on Zoom and see what it’s like to play rocket league at a high standard.
“Hopefully I can get some tips from them that I can put into practice at the tournament.”
PL Kicks is a long-running programme which follows the Foundation’s aims of creating opportunities and changing lives when it comes to young people in the local community.
In partnership with West Midlands Police, participants who may otherwise be difficult to reach are invited to a safe place to enjoy playing football or taking part in other activities and educational workshops.
“As with everyone, it has been challenging time with the pandemic over the last 12 months, and I think the last proper Kicks session we did was around this time last year,” adds Luke.
“It has been vitally important to try and keep everyone engaged via the online activities, and if it works well the Rocket League tournament could become a regular feature.
“Having spoken to a lot of the parents of our participants, I think the kids are crawling up the walls at the moment and can’t wait to get back out and enjoying activities again.
“The fun of staying at home and gaming on a Friday night only lasts for so long before they want to get out and about and kick a ball around.
“Obviously we will only be able to restart face-to-face sessions when it is completely safe to do so, but I think we are all counting down the days!
“In the meantime, it will be great to see all of them online on Friday night which, as well as the masterclass, will offer them the chance to catch up with each other again and have that social contact.”