Who would have thought that at 25 years of age, I'd be sitting in my living room telling myself just how much I appreciate Jamie Vardy's existence. Not me that's for sure. But it doesn't end there. There is absolutely no logical reasoning to suggest why I couldn't sleep for 3 weeks because John Stones was linked to Chelsea, or rather than wish for normal things like winning the lottery, I wish for Jay Rodriguez' return to form. The funny part is, I know I'm not alone.
Like many others me and my friends have been obsessed with fantasy football for the best part of 10 seasons now. A competitive cauldron of who to captain, who to put into your team early doors before their value rises, and which one of your friends to hate slightly more as they edge towards winning the league. But no one quite anticipated the impact draft would have on our lives. It has been a revolution that has sent shock waves through the core of the fantasy community. Like many other original fantasy football loyalists, I was skeptical at first when my friend Joe tried to introduce Draft to us via a Facebook group. To me it was like foreign exchange student Joe was bringing out with us for the first time; I didn't understand him, but I was politely obliged to listen. Not wanting to miss out, I reluctantly caved in and jumped on the bandwagon, unaware of the fact that my life was now in the hands of a new all conquering force.
As the selection process edged near, there were far too many questions, and no one really knew what was going on. What are waivers? How many autopicks do you choose? How is it fair if you're bottom of the selection queue? So we created a new Whatsapp group, appropriately titled: Rumour Mill, where we could quietly obsess over our new pet without anyone in our normal Whatsapp group judging us. (Our friend won the league last year on normal fantasy, and wanted to take a 'break' this year. sigh.) In the blink of an eye the selection process was over, and we all had our teams. What the hell just happened? All I know is, I definitely panicked and I ended up with Vydra and Kramaric to lead the line. Not the most inspiring of strikers, but there's something massively unnerving about watching 60 seconds tick down, knowing full well that goals win games. The pressure proved too much for many. Some ended up with Balotelli up front and some couldn't even think of 1 starting striker and ended up with, Ings, Welbeck and Remy up top (LOL). As we came to terms with our decisions, attention turned to transfers. The Rumour Mill reached peak activity immediately, and negotiations were in full swing.
Over the course of 2 months some furiously chopped and changed leaving their teams unrecognizable from their original picks, and some stayed loyal to their original players. I soon became embarrassed for ever being that passionate about normal fantasy football. As the start of the season loomed, and I saw Facebook updates saying, 'Join Our League - Code 211-373.' I couldn't help but think, 'Peasants.' I was well and truly sat on top of my perch. At times I had to take a look in the mirror and reevaluate my life. Why was I active in the Rumour Mill at 3am discussing Marc Albrighton? Should I have sold a ticket for an event to my friend in exchange for Brad Guzan? You're better than this I told myself. Quickly proceedings got out of hand and anarchy ensued. There have been transfers overruled which have been deemed to bring the game into disrepute, there have been mind games, there have been factions and allegiances formed amongst members, and there has been some serious foul play. We assigned a chairman to calm proceedings but he soon resigned from his post because the pressure was just too much to handle. Players became fed up, and many revolted, exiting the Rumour Mill, realizing it had all just got out of hand. We had been besieged by a wave of corruption, dirty tactics and greed.
As the season got under way and the storm had settled, we all decided to enjoy the beautiful game once more. Brought together by our love for football, the journey began to evolve and we introduced loan signings into the game. Certain players were attempting to throw their first few games in order to be bottom of the league, and in turn, top of the waiver queue, so we prohibited loan signings in order to throw games. We have a weekly press conference in the form of voice notes in the Rumour Mill on Saturdays before the early kick off, and there is a real buzz in the air come match days. There's nothing like YOUR player scoring. You feel a certain attachment to him, if he's not on form you try to pick him up and when he is, there's absolute pandemonium in the stands. Head to Head is also a very beautiful thing. Only having to worry about 1 opponent, and 1 set of players is extremely kind, considering every time on normal fantasy a player you don't have scores you want to light yourself on fire. You can even watch on gleefully and appreciate your friends matches, knowing you don't give a Flying Fonte what the outcome is. Being able to build up your squad, get a cheeky player in on waiver, do a cute deal with your friends, and personally pray that Ronald Koeman trips in the shower for not starting J Rod are all reasons why Draft triggers a fleet of your emotions. Having to wait until the Monday night kick off and needing Alexis to just not get booked and not concede for 3 points to win you the fixture is what makes Draft so great. It's been a journey and I'm not proud of begging my friend for my goalkeeper back because he gave me Given in return, who I had no idea didn't start, (he did) but it's a journey nonetheless...
Good luck for the season ahead!
Shayan Shahdi, FC Hibak
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