Infatuation: One Man's Love For Virtual World Cups

By Ford James on at

The World Cup is the pinnacle of the football calendar, and one man has found a way to experience it much more frequently.

TotalSportek.com has football ranked as the most popular sport in the world, with over 4 billion fans. To put that into perspective, the current population of the world is approximately 7.6 billion, so over half of the current living humans on this planet enjoy watching football. That seems excessive, but it goes without saying that the World Cup, the biggest footballing event that rolls around once every four years, is a global spectacle that can enthral even the most unlikely of spectators, and it’s often not even due to the football itself: World Cup viewing parties, barbecues, sweepstakes and more get everyone involved, turning matches into a community effort. If your home country makes it past the group stages, it’s hard not to find yourself pulled in by the contagious aura of celebration and predictions.

Once every four years is also quite the wait, but one man, a 25 year-old British bank clerk who now lives in Australia, has created a personal solution. Reddit user wwesmudge is the creator and moderator of a subreddit called /r/newsupdates. At first glance, it simply looks like a football themed news aggregator, until you delve a little deeper and notice the dates are 30-40 years in the future. “Greece unveil bid for the 2050 World Cup” is one headline. “Neymar wins 2046 Ballon D’or” is another. Okay, I thought, so wwesmudge likes to theorise and guess about what the football world is going to be like decades in the future. But as I investigated further, and eventually spoke to the man himself, it turns out there was much more going into it.

The man has created this footballing future all through FIFA, and it’s not just a case of playing a few custom tournaments with his pals then writing up some background lore afterwards. He goes the full 90 minutes plus extra time: “I'm a football addict, but most of all I'm a World Cup addict,” wwesmudge told me in a Reddit message. “It's the greatest event in the world and I think I was just impatient to wait every 4 years, so I became so immersed in this world. I could have a World Cup every 6 months! I like organising events, finding a good logo, searching for a theme song, and designing mascots, and choosing stadiums, it's a labour of love when it all comes together and looks really authentic.”

Just one sheet of an almost 1GB Excel document dedicated to the 2026 World Cup in Australia.

For so much effort, one would assume there’s an audience for such a thing and that wwesmudge has fans that perhaps tune into his Twitch stream, watch the VODs on YouTube later on, or maybe read the post-match reports? The absence of this was one of the reasons I was initially curious: I understand putting effort into large-scale fantasies with a large audience. But it looked like wwesmudge was out there in the future and flying somewhat solo.

I asked whether he has a community or fans. “[I do this] solely for myself, and up until today I don’t think it’s been seen or read before,” which leads to the obvious question: Why? Why bother going to so much effort and dedicate so much time to something nobody else is going to see or read, when it would be much simpler to enjoy FIFA tournaments and progress through more of them in a shorter amount of time without all this background leg work?

“In the interest of honesty, I show signs of Aspergers Syndrome,” wwesmudge says. “Not a considerable amount, I hold a good job, have a good social life but growing up I've always created fantasy worlds that I put a lot of time and detail into. If you look at my Reddit history you'll see that I wrote 18 years of programming for a wrestling show. I like creating my own things, that are perfectly mine, I get to decide who hosts the next tournament, I get to decide which players go on the plane and which ones stay at home, I get to decide the manager hirings and firings.

This mug with the USA & Canada 2046 World Cup logo emblazoned could easily be official merchandise.

“I knew from the beginning I would never be able to share this enjoyment with anyone else,” he continues. “I knew they ‘wouldn't get it’. So it was designed from the ground up for me, catering to my every desire and I am very proud of my commitment and care to this project,” and it shows. The image you see above is a mug sporting the logo of the 2046 Fifa World Cup, co-hosted by Canada and the United States. This piece of merchandise was paid for by wwesmudge, to commemorate a fictional event which saw Brazil emerge victorious, with a 2-1 win over Germany at the MetLife Stadium in New York.

That result may not mean much to some but, in this simulated future, that 2-1 victory is in fact revenge for Germany’s 3-1 slaughter of Brazil in the final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Germany won it again in China in 2034, beating Argentina 2-0 in the final while Brazil went down 2-1 to France in the third place playoff. So for the Brazilians, the near future looks bleak but gaze forward to 2046 when you’ll supposedly restore your former glory. The entire 30+ years of matches have been played out via various iterations of the FIFA video game series and are full of moments like these: grudge matches, memories, and rivalries.

Brazil were the deserved winners of the 2046 World Cup.

“The French side of 2042 will go down with the likes of the Brazil 70 squad and the Argentina 86 squad,” wwesmudge marvels. Managed by Arsene Wenger [a spring chicken at 92 years old - Ed] they beat their neighbours Germany 3-1 at the Antonio Vespucio Liberti Stadium in Argentina. Lloris, Laporte, Varane, Martial and Griezmann all made the 23-man team of the tournament, showing they can still hang with the best 30-40 years into their storied career. I kid, of course, but that’s one of the amusing results of using FIFA and not Football Manager for such an endeavour. While all these events have been tied into the same universe by the creator, in-game they’re just individually saved tournaments with the current roster of players in the game. Football Manager would undoubtedly be much more detailed and would do a lot of the work for him, so I asked him why he uses FIFA instead.

“I like to play every match and be involved in every minute of football played, and the graphics being so good makes it a pleasure to play,” he explained. There’s one obvious flaw with that though: Which team does he play as? “I try to keep it realistic, if it's a strong team against a weak team I'll play as the strong team for 90 minutes and usually win. If it's two evenly matched teams I'll play for one team one half and the other team the other half. It keeps results realistic but still brings up the odd surprise and suspenseful action.”

The moment Lacazette’s bicycle kick gave France an injury time 2-1 victory over Russia in the Euro 2044 tournament.

Football in real life is full of drama and controversial actions, and wwesmudge has found a way to incorporate such happenings into this fictional future. One headline that stood out to me on his subreddit was ‘Colin Todd walks out of Egyptian National Team following team strike during African Cup of Nations’, which is something that simply cannot happen within the realms of FIFA. “I just create a few background stories to try and make things a bit more interesting,” he says. Egypt had just had a great tournament with Steve McClaren and, as a result, McClaren was poached by the Belgian national team. Egypt brought in a fairly average manager in Colin Todd and it just never worked out, following a good showing at the World Cup, Egypt were now at the AfCon really struggling. The team fell out with the manager, and Todd got the boot.”

Another fascinating headline is ‘FIFA to investigate Sergio Aguero’s spitting incident during match with Spain.’ How could something like that be determined? Apparently, this was actually in the game itself: “That was actually FIFA. In the game, I was scored against by Aguero, and then computer decided to make Aguero run to the camera and do a spitting gesture. I was shocked to see what I considered a really dirty act, so put a spin on it.”

Everything that happens is commentated on live by wwesmudge during the game, along with 15 minutes of pre-match analysis, 10 minutes at half-time, then 10-15 minutes of post-game talk. He even goes as far as to emulate the British football media with 30 minutes of pre-match chatter before England games. He decides which television network has the rights to each tournament, then if it’s ITV he’ll play some adverts off YouTube during the designated ad breaks, along with creating - but not recording - a one-man podcast discussing the events and happenings of each tournament.

He’s even had television intros created to play before each game.

There’s no signs of wwesmudge's project coming to an end either: he planned it till 2050, assuming he’d grow bored and tired and start something new before then, but as time has gone on he’s “gotten more and more involved”, and as a result he’s drawn up plans to continue till 2106. That’s 15 more World Cups from the current year of 2048, or seven and a half more years worth.

Every single tournament has been planned out, from the host country to the potential stadiums and their capacities to the official logos that will be used. This entire project is a fascinating insight into what an active imagination can create with the help of video games, and the unlikely ways in which people can make their own fun. It's not hard to see why some call it the beautiful game.