Berlin - When the qualification for the Virtual Bundesliga final begins this weekend, Hertha will be represented by a newcomer to the Bundesliga eSports scene. It will be the first time that Hertha have taken part in the Virtual Bundesliga on the PlayStation platform. The man doing so hails from Berlin himself - 20-year-old Elias Nerlich, who goes by the name of ‘Mern22’ on the PlayStation, will wear the blue and white of Hertha BSC. It will be his Bundesliga eSports debut. Herthabsc.de took the time to get to know the aspiring graduate.
Herthabsc.de: Elias, the qualification for the final of the Virtual Bundesliga kicks off on 10th March. You’ll play for Hertha in the ninth game on the PlayStation. How much are you looking forward to your debut and what expectations are you going into the tournament with?
Nerlich: I’m really looking forward to it! As I was born in Berlin, it’s a real honour for me to be able to represent Hertha BSC in FIFA. I think I have a good chance to do well in the competition, but it will definitely be a tough competition - lots of good players are competing.
Herthabsc.de: What mode is played in the Virtual Bundesliga?
Nerlich: We play in the ‘Ultimate Team’ mode. That means that every participant can put together whatever team they want with whichever players they want. Within the team though, there cannot be more than three players from the same team. There are 16 groups in total, in which four participants go head to head. The player who finishes first qualifies automatically for the knockout stages, while the second and third placed players play a two-leg playoff to decide who gets through. The fourth placed player gets knocked out automatically.
Herthabsc.de: As someone who comes from the capital, what does it mean to wear the blue and white colours and represent your home town?
Nerlich: As I was born and raised in Berlin, I have a big connection to Hertha BSC - they are my club. I go to the stadium about three times each season. If I can’t make it to the stadium, I’ll definitely make sure to keep up with how they’ve done. I follow Hertha all the time. It’s a huge honour to be able to represent them in eSports.
Herthabsc.de: Do you have any favourite players in the current Hertha squad - in real life and also in FIFA?
Nerlich: Salomon Kalou is probably the best attacking player in FIFA. In defence, I really like Mitchell Weiser. In real life, Jordan Torunarigha is definitely my favourite player. He’s pretty good in FIFA too: strong and fast (laughs). Apart from that there are two other young Herta players who I regularly play against on console: Sidney Friede and Julius Kade.
Herthabsc.de: Lots of young people play FIFA in their spare time. When did you realise that you had a particular talent for playing the game?
Nerlich: FIFA 12 was the first FIFA game that I played. I think I started to realise that I was better than my mates when FIFA 16 came around. I never really even played it excessively either - I didn’t really have the time to in all honesty, as I was playing for RSV Waltersdorf Fußball actively at the time. Then the day before FIFA 17 was released, I broke my fibula while playing in a real life game and was stuck in my bed for a solid two weeks. When the game came out I said to my brother: “Now I’m going to become the best FIFA player!” Ever since, I’ve spent a lot of time on the game and competed in the ‘Weekend League’.
Herthabsc.de: How does the ‘Weekend League’ work then?
Nerlich: You play 40 games - with each one having two halves of six minutes - and try your best to win as many as possible. It takes about a total of 12 hours to do them all.
Herthabsc.de: You said earlier that you played football yourself for a long time. How much does your experience on the pitch help you on console?Nerlich: It’s a big advantage to have been an active player myself back in the day. You understand the game better and know how to deal with situations well - it translates onto the console. You can obviously do things in FIFA that aren’t realistic and aren’t really possible in real life, but the idea is the same.
Herthabsc.de: Professional footballers train about five to six times a week. Most games are played on the weekends. How often and for how long do you play on the PlayStation?
Nerlich: Throughout the week I probably play for about an hour each day. At the weekends, I play regularly because of the ‘Weekend League’.
Herthabsc.de: How do you prepare yourself for games?
Nerlich: My favourite thing to do is listen to classical music before the game. It helps me calm down and to focus fully on the game. Even when I’m playing I let some piano melodies play in the background, especially film soundtracks. I’m a big Hans Zimmer fan.
Herthabsc.de: In the summer you’ll do you’re A-Levels. You’re on the cusp of becoming an eSports professional. What career path are you going to go down?
Nerlich: First off, I want to get as far as I can in the Virtual Bundesliga. Apart from that, it would be a dream to qualify for the World Cup.