As I sat here waiting excitedly for my day at my “grown-up” job to end so I can get the latest copy of EA Sports’ FIFA video game series out of my mailbox and start playing, I realized that’s been roughly 20 years since I started playing the game (then called “FIFA International Soccer”) back on my Sega Genesis. Since then, I’ve bought it close to every year either for Genesis, then Sony PlayStation, PlayStation II and then finally for XBox 360.
As a total aside, I have to mention my two favorite “features” of old editions of FIFA. The first was the ability in FIFA International Soccer to actually run away from a referee attempting to book you and have the referee chase you around the field for a minute or so until he finally got sick of chasing and sent you off. The second feature was the “dive button” you could use in FIFA: RTWC 1998. You could, just like real players, use it when you ran out of ideas in the penalty area and occasionally get the call – and the subsequent meltdown from your younger brother who just suffered the injustice.
And for all those years of entertainment and amusement, I owe EA Sports and the FIFA games’ creators and producers a massive thank you. The reality is that, not only do I owe them thanks for all the fun I’ve had playing FIFA over the years, but I truly owe them thanks for helping really introduce me to the great players and teams of the world when they started including real clubs and players in FIFA 96. I learned a ton about the sport simply from playing FIFA and there’s no question I wouldn’t love the sport the way I do or be involved with the sport as I currently am, if not for the FIFA series.
I also thank them for the fact that I am certainly not the only American kid for whom that’s the case. In fact, if I had to think of institutions most responsible for the “mainstreaming” of soccer among the American public, I would put EA Sports and the FIFA series right at the top of that list along with World Cup 94, Major League Soccer and ESPN. I think it’s been that important.
So for all that, I say thanks one more time to EA Sports, along with making one request. In the interests of realism, could you please bring the “dive button” back? After all, think how much it could help Manchester United fans truly take advantage of Ashley Young’s “talents” on the field.