Growing up in the United States, my coaching at the youth level was horrendous. "Hey your the fastest kid in the squad so your playing striker," coaches would tell me--even though I had the worst shot (seriously I would have been an awesome field goal kicker). Meanwhile, a buddy of mine who was tall and stocky always played center-back, yet he was the most technically gifted player I've ever known. That's how it was, we didn't know better. So on game day coaches would set us up in a 4-4-2 and tell us to "go play."
Needless to say, unless you had a satellite dish 12 years ago, the only top level footy on TV to visually learn about the sport were World Cups every 4 years and the occasional Tuesday Champions League match. Even then, you were lucky just to get home from school in time to catch the end of a game. Therefore I relied on my coaches to teach me the fundamentals…that was until I played World Soccer Winning Eleven 6 International.
I can honestly say the Winning Eleven series taught me more about soccer than any coach I had ever played under. It taught me about different tactics and formations relative to the type of footy I wanted to play. WE taught me how to combat my opponents playing style. I learned how specific attributes of players can affect tactics and it was crucial to fit players into your lineup that balanced out the team. AC Milan's Christmas tree formation, for example, became a staple of mine as I loved making overlapping runs with my wing-backs (something that was forbidden by my ultra defensive-minded club coaches). I can't forget the most important aspect of PES though...individuality.
One of my greatest PES moments was playing a buddy of mine whom I converted from FIFA. The game was Winning Eleven 7 International. He chose France because of his lover Henry and I chose Madrid. It was the 80th minute with the score tied 1-1. I gain possession of the ball with Zidane 25-yards out from Barthez's net. As Zidane turns to face goal, he sees Makelele rushing in on a slide tackle and avoids tearing an ACL with a trademark 360 spin. With Makelele beaten, Thuram pushed up from his center-back position at the top of the box to close down Zidane. Zizou does a side step to his right then drags the ball back and in one continuous motion cuts to his left across Thuram's body completely wrong footing the legendary defender. From 20-yards out Zidane rips a blistering rocket into the lower left corner of the net! My buddy and I both jumped out of our chairs not believing what just happened. But the crazy thing that made it so awesome was the realism of it all. It was something that you would believe Zidane could do in real life which made the moment that much sweeter.
This is the main reason PES is so close to my heart, I basically learned the sport and learned about the best players in the world through the eyes of Konami.
Today, Soccer is more prevalent on TV with beIN Sport, Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN airing multiple matches a week. I see moments in matches and think "I've seen that in PES" or "That can happen in PES." Soccer is the #1 grassroots sport in this country and there are gamers here that think FIFA is the closest representation of the sport. I would guess most don't even know PES exists, and the ones that do won't give PES a try because of licenses. I worked with someone who finally bought a copy of PES 2013 after I was constantly in his ear telling him how much better the game was compared to FIFA. He loaded up his Xbox360 saw fake Premier League teams and called me, "I can't play a game with fake teams bro." I told him about Option Files but he didn't feel like taking the time to scour the web for one. My co-worker never played a single match of PES 2013.
PES United is looking forward to changing that mindset