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Serie A giants AC Milan might be one of the most recognizable names in European soccer, but now the Italian side are dipping their toe into the world of eSports too.

Milan were one of the dominant forces in European soccer in the early nineties, winning the prestigious Champions League on three occasions in six years. They have lifted it twice since, and remain as iconic and illustrious as they once were, despite the lack of silverware to back that up.

They are now going to hunt trophies of a different kind, entering teams on virtual platforms which is a growing trend amongst the big clubs in Europe. Paris St Germain and Barcelona have both got a strong presence in the eSports world, and not just in soccer titles.

The dominant soccer title is Electronic Arts’ FIFA franchise, currently on FIFA 21. That is one of the games which the new Milan team will compete, with the other being Brawl Stars. The team will take part in the Brawl Stars 2020 World Championship Finals, which is set to be held entirely online due to the recent restrictions on movement around the world.

The move by AC Milan has been engineered in partnership with Italian eSports brand QLASH and will be named AC Milan QLASH. The QLASH brand was previously linked with bitter city rivals Internazionale earlier this year. The move is a prestigious one for QLASH, teaming up with a respected brand such as Milan, and that was reflected in the warm words of appreciation uttered by their co-founder and CEO, Luca Pagano: “For traditional companies that have the courage to adjust and embrace innovation, eSports can represent a huge growth opportunity. We are thrilled and proud that AC Milan decided to pick QLASH as their eSports arm, not just for operation, but also at brand and commercial levels.”

The big news for soccer fans will be Milan entering the FIFA world, a growing eSport with increasingly lucrative prizes on offer for players. FIFA 20 failed to reach the levels of the previous three games in terms of prize-money, but not due to a dwindling interest in the title. However, FIFA 21 promises to be big business on the eSports scene. Its predecessor was the platform for numerous tournaments through 2020, although some were curtailed due to the restrictions, which meant a reduction in prize money. The prize money for the 2020 FIFA eWorld Cup was reported by Bwin as being $500,000, but that may even increase as bigger teams and players come on board. The game generates billions in revenue for the developer and that should lead to better prizes and competitions.

The first player on the AC Milan QLASH roster will be Diego Campagnani, known as ‘CrazyFatGamer’. He finished the last FIFA Global Series season as the top-ranked player in the world for the PlayStation, and he will be joined by Fabio Denuzzo, a respected and coveted Xbox player.

Several top European teams already have eSports divisions, with AS Roma perhaps the most high-profile in Italy. They linked up directly with an existing eSports team, Fnatic, and have backed top FIFA players via that route. German teams have widely embraced eSports, with Bayern Munich entering teams in the PES competitions, the same as Barcelona. FC Schalke of the Bundesliga even has a team competing in the League of Legends title, well away from the familiar platform of soccer.

(Photo Credit - nobbiwan, 2009-08 Derby- AC Milan vs Inter at San Siro, CC BY 2.0)