Japanese FIFA player Akito Aoki flew all the way from Japan to the UK last week to watch his favourite team play. And while you’d expect that to be a club from the Premier League, or maybe the Championship (ie, the second division), he was actually there to watch Stockport County, a side currently toiling away in England’s sixth-tier.
“I like video games and I found Stockport County and I chose [to support] Stockport County,” Aoki told the BBC. “I have supported them for about eight to nine years but this is my first time at Edgeley Park. It has been very fun and I am staying here in Stockport for one week.”
You can tell he’s been playing for a while because County haven’t been in FIFA for years, since only the sides from England’s Football League are covered (which stops at the fourth tier). But Aoki’s fandom runs deep, as he not only made the trip out to watch a game in the flesh, but he even met some players and spent the pre-game at a local pub meeting other fans.
While becoming obsessed with lower-division sides might sound weird to some American sports fans, there’s a definite appeal to it; taking a side like Stockport through the ranks to the top of the Premier League is a hugely-satisfying achievement in FIFA’s manager mode, and is something I’ve done with clubs like Oxford United, who you might initially pick for everything from their badge to their kit to their name, but who after spending months with grow to subconsciously love.