A NORTHWICH side reached the last 16 of a worldwide competition recently and you probably will never have heard of it.

1874, represented by 17-year-old Ben Davies, took part in the Lower League eCup – a global online football gaming tournament on FIFA 21 focusing on lower league sides.

The aim? To conquer the opponents in his path for the trophy.

Ben, a fan and co-owner of North West Counties Premier Division side 1874 Northwich, live streams video games to his audience on the online platform called Twitch.

He has grown up in Birmingham, but his parents' ties to Comberbach and other family links to Little Leigh meant that Ben wanted to keep the Northwich flag flying high from the West Midlands.

Ben made it out of the group stage of the tournament but got knocked out in the last 16.

“It felt quite good to represent my club rather than just being a fan,” he said.

“The club's fan engagement account Tweeted out about joining the esports team. I direct messaged them and got talking to them, they asked me if I wanted to represent them in the tournament.”

He continued: “I didn’t know much about non-league esports before this tournament, but it seems to be quite good. There’s quite a range of skill levels in this which helps a lot.

“They’re definitely massive [in helping people like Ben gain experience in tournaments]. Playing FIFA is a massive part of my life and playing in this tournament representing my club is a great experience.”

The tournament, which has involved more than 150 clubs, spans across PC, PS4 and Xbox, the latter of which is Ben’s console.

There are 31 different groups of four teams, including nine Xbox Premier Divisions, and Ben was in Group B of one of those divisions in which he held his own.

“I played the other three people once around; I lost the first one then won the next two,” he said.

Esports, like FIFA, are still growing in popularity, where gamers stream themselves playing on popular sites and applications like Twitch and YouTube.

To prove just how big this part of the industry is, data from the Influencer Marketing Hub shows that in 2020 there were 272 million occasional viewers of esports and 223 million enthusiasts. The total audience size grew to almost half a billion esports followers.

And that figure is only on the up. By 2023, Newzoo predicts that the annual growth rate will be approximately 10.4 per cent, taking the total audience to 646 million.

The end goal for a lot of streamers like Ben is to become financially sustainable through advertisements, viewers buying subscriptions to their channels and donating.

“Definitely [is a full-time ambition]. Content creating is something I want to do for at least the next five years or so,” he said.

Ben will be hoping to live out every teenager’s dream, taking his team all the way to the top. He just so may be able to do that with 1874 in a future tournament.