How social media helped ‘Football Manager’ become one of the biggest cult games on the planet


Jon Zola Moukoko. Cherno Samba. Carlos Ferro. In Madeira. In reality, these rather obscure footballers played for the likes of Atletico Morelia, Carlstad United and FC Haka – Madeira, it turns out, didn’t even exist – but for many fans of the soccer manager series, they are best known for their exploits in the game.

Millions of copies of soccer manager are sold every year, and for those who play, it’s less of a hobby than a way of life. An online overview shows how important fan communities are: FM subreddit has 230,000 members, while the Out of Context Football Manager Twitter and Football Manager Memes Instagram accounts have nearly 170,000 and 100,000 respectively. Liam Bond, who runs the latter, started playing in 2001 when he was a still Championship Manager, and still occasionally enjoys the 01/02 version.

He created his account during the first lockdown, when he was a ‘manager’ in Gibraltar: “I knew people would be asking for a page like FM Memes, because I was. I set it up, paid for a few promotions, and it took off and had a life of its own. Now there’s a community of 100,000 people, sharing their stories, engaging with each other, playing online with each other – it’s awesome.

maybe the reason soccer manager seems to attract that sense of community online is that it’s not as popular with the digital native cohort as games like Fifa are, forcing fans to search online for soul mates. Like FM fan Jordan Martin – who for a time ran one of the biggest pages, Reject your offer from Barcelona because you’re happy at Barcelona – says the rise of soccer manager pages in the early 2010s “began with hardcore FM fans who watched online because all your friends played FIFA – it was rarer to find friends playing soccer manager as a young teenager.

Football Manager concept art Credit: Sports Interactive

While a long time ago FM forums, for teenagers who wanted to find an online community, Facebook would have been a much more natural habitat. As for those young fans of the early 2010s, the directors (often with names like Soap and Potatohead) were almost Internet celebrities; Jordan admits he was even recognized at a few parties.

Although soccer manager could be a niche, especially among Fifa demographic, “the pages grew even more because they were also posting about football in general,” says Jordan. “What held people back was football in general.”

Perhaps the most important moment was putting your achievements as a football manager on your CV, or FMCV, which would influence a myriad of other FM– inspired pages. A FM challenge undertaken by one of the administrators of South Korea’s Gangneung City FC has led to a regeneration – a game-generated player, which occurs when the most recognizable players retire during multi-year campaigns – called Wang Haibo becoming a cult hero, and even the subject of a transfer rumor that gained traction on Twitter.

The better part of a decade later, Bond’s adventures as manager of Malaysian sides Sarawak United and Polis Diraja Malaysia captured the imagination of his page followers, along with one of Sarawak’s IRL players – Uche Agba – even tracking virtual exploits. It almost feels like a spiritual successor to the Adventures of Gangneung.

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Soccer manager. Credit: Sports Interactive

Rich Goodwin, manager of South Yorkshire indie quartet The Reytons, set up his own page after being inspired by FMCV and rejection of your offer from Barcelona. He has been playing since FM 2011: » “The novelty of swearing has worn off now, but you start to appreciate different parts of the game as you get older – a testament to its versatility.”

These pages were very much a product of their time, combining soccer manager with Between two-esque the humor and culture of early memes, and after the mid-2010s they began to fade. “The Golden Age of FM social media seemed to shut down as everyone turned 16 and other priorities started to take over,” adds Rich, paving the way for the next generation of pages a few years later.

“Putting your Football Manager achievements on your CV” might sound ironic, but some fans have done it. Sometimes it works: Vugar Huseynzade, 22, landed the job of FC Baku coach in his native Azerbaijan in 2012, ahead of former Ballon d’Or and France international Jean-Pierre Papin.

However, he is really the exception. After parting ways with their manager in 2016, non-league Altrincham’s social media team tweeted that CVs sent should not be “based on FM Where CM achievements.”

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Football Manager 30. Credit: Sega

Jack Jolly was running the club’s socials at the time with a friend. “Not in the mood for an onslaught of DMs and notifications around the game, we decided to tweet it hoping for strong engagement on a moving topic,” he says.

However, the club then changed course and published an advertisement for a “first team manager”, or a soccer manager director to take the reins on YouTube: “After a brief call with our current president, we thought there was an opportunity for good PR if we turned the question around and offered suitable interviews for a real role”, explains Jack, who is a FM fan himself.

Then there’s John Davies, who after playing a lot of FM during lockdown decided to go real-life and now works at Sutton United as an analytics manager: “It’s definitely something I want to stay in. Once you’re in, you realize just how much what’s going on soccer manager actually transfers through, which is pretty funny! ” he explains.

The call of soccer manager, different from the tastes of Fifa in that you don’t play matches yourself, it can be hard to understand if you’re not a fan – what makes it so appealing?

soccer manager
Soccer manager. Credit: Sports Interactive

Certainly, FM may not seem as fun as games like Fifa – even a seasoned fan like Rich admits that while playing he just “replaces real-world emails with fake emails”, but he started playing first because of the customizable aspect and the large number of playable teams available.

Another fan, Sam Cross, agrees: “I like the depth of the thing,” he explains. “I could spend £40m on a player who arrives with a shitty personality and then destroys my team? What a bet!”

But is there more, really? “Whereas [it’s] definitely fun to pass the time i guess [FIFA] does not give the same success in continuity as soccer manager, nor the ‘reality’ it gives by allowing him to truly integrate into his life as a sense of accomplishment that can be found day after day,” says Ruth Micallef, award-winning counselor and mental health expert.

She describes FM as offering escapism and the opportunity to “practice ‘failure’ and ‘risk'”, but cautions against too much play in our identities: “Video games should be used as part of a balanced lifestyle. Without real fulfillment or contentment in our real lives, it’s very easy to turn to games like soccer manager for the synthetic version.

Regardless of why people play, it has definitely entered the cultural zeitgeist. People fly around the world to see a team they’ve managed, embark on real-world football careers, and form lifelong friendships through soccer manager and the connections they made online. Of course, for others it’s just a great way to spend an hour or two after work or school, which is fine too.

The last part of the series, Soccer Coach 2022, is available on PC.


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