Another Israeli team is being sent abroad to bring home the gold for its country, but this time it's different. These contenders don't need to be in peak physical condition to be at the top of their game. In fact, they don't even have to leave their chairs.
The "sport?" Gaming. This term has come to denote playing computer video games in competitions, which are often played over the internet. Although it may sound like child's play, Israel's own gaming team manager Jeremie Klepzkine, 28, claims that gaming is a serious endeavor and that his players have dedicated their lives to the goal of winning tournaments.
"It's a common belief that serious gamers are poor students, but in actuality they have to be extremely organized to be giving so much of their time. Most of the players on our team are very good students," Klepzkine said. "However, your romantic life is prone to suffer," he admitted.
It's no wonder, since Klepzkine said that the players on his team, representing the cream of the crop of Israeli gamers, spend most of their time in front of their computer working to improve their skills.
Seven players from Klepzkine's team, e-Srael Gaming, have been training for the Superbowl of gaming competitions: the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) Winter Championships in Dallas, Texas beginning Wednesday December 14.
Apparently, gaming has been making its mark financially worldwide. Klepzkine speaks of teams in Europe and America that are so heavily sponsored that they do not hold day jobs. "Unfortunately, gaming in Israel is still relatively underground and does not get as much recognition as it does abroad, where it is a huge industry. We're hoping that e-Srael's presence at the CPL tournament changes all that," he said.
e-Srael was formed about four years ago when Klepzkine, an immigrant from France, was contacted by teenage Israeli gamers who wanted Klepzkine's help. In France, Klepzkine had been an active gamer when internet games were just beginning.
The team having players from all over Israel, has corporate sponsors and has competed in other tournaments in France, Los Angeles, and South Korea, but the CPL tournament is the big time.
The seven from the e-Srael team - all male and all under the age of 22 - have their eyes on the top prize of $1 million. Klepzkine said that in all major tournaments, including CPL, men compete against men and women against women.
"It always was like this," Klepzkine said. "The skill level is lower in the female community, perhaps because the amount of male players eclipses the amount of female players out there. Male teams are much more talented. It's just a fact." The men (some as young as 16) will play in the CPL tournament, which lasts a week beginning December 14. There are several different types of games to be played, among them Fifa soccer game and Counterstrike, which is the most popular game worldwide.
The best gamers Klepzkine has seen are between the ages of 18 and 20. "Typically in your mid-20s, your skills as a professional gamer begin to deteriorate," Klepzkine said. "Our best players are before or after the army," he said. "Once gamers start working or attending university, they simply don't have the time to dedicate to gaming anymore. So they move on with their lives and make way for future generations."