MADRID: Barcelona will launch a professional eSport team and expects to play against other leading European clubs, the La Liga leaders announced on Tuesday.
In partnership with their defender Gerard Pique, who founded the company eFootball.Pro in 2016, Barca will compete in the first edition of the Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PES2018) tournament, due to start in the next few weeks.
"FC Barcelona have become a pioneering club after reaching an agreement with the company eFootball.Pro and KONAMI to participate in the first edition of the PES2018 League competition that will start in the next few weeks," the club´s statement read.
"The blaugranes will have a professional team that will compete against other European teams to be announced shortly."`
Pique added: "As a player, I am moved that my club has decided to enter e-sport. I'm sure they will be a great opponent for all the other teams."
ESport, which typically involves multi-player games played at a professional level, has enjoyed a dramatic rise in popularity in recent years.
According to a statement made by La Liga on Tuesday, the Spanish Association of Video Games (AEVI) anticipates the global economic impact of eSport will exceed $1 billion by 2020.
La Liga hailed the creation of its own eSport initiative, "LaLiga e-sports" and promised "to roll out several ambitious projects, the details of which will be revealed in the next few months".