Barcelona, Spain – League of Kings by Gerard Piquea new soccer league which just three months ago made its debut under the sign of jokes and contempt, ended in glorious and dramatic fashion on Sunday at FC Barcelona’s famous Camp Nou stadium. As Pique presented the glittering gold trophy to winner Adri Contreras “The Neighborhood,” a perennial underdog whose team was the only one without a sponsor, one thing became clear: the Kings League is here to stay.
A total of 92,522 spectators attended the Kings League Final Four game and managed to sell out the stadium, a feat which had only been achieved by traditional football twice this season. Although matches between the four finalist teams were the main attraction, the Kings League seemed to take a page from the US Super Bowl playbook for his show, which included a rap battle, performances by big stars like Tiago PZK and Lali, and an attempt to break a Guinness world record (spoiler: it worked).
Pique himself arrived at the stadium by helicopter with the presidents of the finalists’s teams – streamers TheGrefg, Perxitaa and Juan Guarnizo as well as TikToker Adri Contreras – in tow. After driving them to the stadium in a golf cart with the gold champion’s cup, the former footballer walked onto his former team’s pitch and took his place on a stage set up next to the pitch.
“There is nothing like seeing the Camp Nou full. We are, for me, in the best stadium in the world,” said Pique. “Nothing like a historic night at the Camp Nou.”
And it was historic. On Sunday, four teams faced off in a new type of indoor football designed by Pique, faster and more spectacular. In a nod to video games, the Kings League includes “Secret Weapon” cards that allow coaches to remove opposing players from the field or make goals count as two points instead of one. He also spices things up at the end of the first half by throwing a giant dice onto the field which eliminates a certain number of players from each team and lets the rest get away with a reduced squad.
All Kings League teams are led by streamers or former pro football stars, including Twitch megastar Ibai Llanos and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas and Argentinian striker Sergio “the Kun” Aguero. Their teams, meanwhile, feature a hodgepodge of players, many of whom have never played professional football.
The unlikely combination wowed the audience. Online, they turned out in their millions to watch the Final Four on Twitch, YouTube and TikTok, which are the league’s official platforms. (It streams for free, unlike traditional football which is shown on pay TV.) More than 2.16 million people watched the event live at any given time, breaking the league’s previous record, and a average of 1.38 million people tuned for the nearly seven hourly streams.
In person, fans came from all over Spain and around the world to watch the Kings League final at the Camp Nou. On the way to the stadium, the Gizmodo taxi driver marveled at the crowds snaking around the stadium and said he thought FC Barcelona could play. FC Barcelona’s official store at the Camp Nou, which sold Kings League football t-shirts and scarves, was overflowing with merchandise from teams like Ibai’s ‘Porcinos’ (or ‘swine’ in English) ) and “Ultimate Móstoles” by DjMaRiiO. at noon.
José and Esther, a young couple who declined to give their surname for confidentiality reasons, came to Barcelona from Zaragoza, a three-hour drive away. Draped in sashes supporting their favorite teams, Ibai’s Porcinos and Saiyans, TheGrefg’s team, the couple said they had come into town for the day and were going home because they had to work the next day. While José remarked that Pique had done a good job with the league and that all the teams were good, Esther said the novelty of the tournament caught his attention.
“I like it because it’s different. I don’t watch traditional football at all,” she said.
José, meanwhile, said the Kings League had become a competitor to traditional football.
“Traditional football has become very monotonous,” he said.
In particular, there was nothing monotonous about the final at Camp Nou. After two grueling semifinals that eliminated Perxitaa’s “Troncos” (which can mean either “tree trunks” or “the dudes” and TheGrefg’s “Saiyans”, regular season heavyweights and favorites, the two league underdogs clashed on the pitch last game, Adri Contreras’ ‘El Barrio’ (or ‘The Neighborhood’) secured a resounding 3-0 victory over the ‘Aniquiladores’ (‘Annihilators’) of Juan Guarnizo.
The crowd screamed. Adri Contreras, the smallest Kings League creator in stature and in public, and his team had won. In a way, it was a fitting ending. Like the Kings League on its debut three months ago, no one thought Contreras had a chance against the football streaming giants. But he and his team valiantly pulled it off, proving them all wrong and changing their lives in the process.
At a press conference ahead of the Final Four on Saturday, Gizmodo asked Pique what he would say to those who criticized the Kings League and doubted it could pull it off. The former footballer replied that he was not surprised by the reviews and was very proud of the product he had created. They had done their best, he explained, and the results spoke for themselves.
“Right now we are here at Camp Nou,” Pique said. “Tomorrow, we will be in front of 91,000 people. I think that’s more than enough to make everyone who doubted us swallow their words.