FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There’s no question that life has changed dramatically for everyone due to the exponential spread of COVID-19. Whether you’re a professional athlete, medical personnel fighting on the frontlines – or any occupation in between – the new norm of social distancing to flatten the curve has impacted us all.
Competitive nature is a core part of being a professional athlete. In the unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic, New England Revolution veteran Andrew Farrell has channeled his competitiveness for a cause by gathering his teammates and fellow MLS players for a video game tournament to raise funds to combat the coronavirus.
“As a professional athlete, you want to be able to compete,” said Farrell. “It’s something that you miss with this whole thing. Obviously, being around our teammates in person and playing in front of fans you miss too, but being able to compete is something that you kind of lose.
“Video games are something that I do to keep my competitiveness going and being able to use that to generate money for a good cause is awesome.”
Farrell organized two Fortnite tournaments: first, a single-player competition, followed by a squad battle a few days later. Between those two tournaments, Farrell helped raise $3,000 in total to fight against COVID-19.
He couldn’t complete this fundraising mission solo, though, and had several partners working to raise these vital funds.
“I was talking to my friends Paolo Del Piccolo [Louisville City FC] and Collen Warner [most recently played in MLS with Minnesota United in 2018] and I was like ‘we should do something,’” said Farrell.
“We were playing video games so we thought, ‘let’s see if we can set something up.’ We wanted to raise money while competing for a good cause, and get people to watch and follow to help as much as possible."
Farrell, Del Piccolo, and Warner are not only close friends, but also entrepreneurial colleagues. In 2012, the three soccer players founded a clothing business together called Face First Attire. They were able to use proceeds from their company to offer a large cash prize to entice players to join the competition.
“Face First hosted and we put up cash prize money for each of the tournaments,” said Farrell. “People who wanted to play had to put in the entry fee.
“The entry fee was $50 for the first one and we had 16 people. The squad tournament was $200 per team with six teams. All of that entry money went towards donations.”
If you do the math, that’s $3,000 in tournament entry fees that went towards combating the effects of COVID-19.
While many Revs players – including Matt Turner, Diego Fagundez, Justin Rennicks,and Brandon Bye – entered the competitions, Farrell asked one of his teammates for help to recruit players from around the league.
“I asked Matt if we did a bigger tournament, ‘are there any guys on the national team that you know that play?’ and so Matt reached out to them,” said Farrell.
Between the Revolution duo, they recruited Aaron Long [New York Red Bulls], Jordan Morris [Seattle Sounders], Cristian Roldan [Seattle Sounders], and Walker Zimmerman [Nashville SC], who played together as a team in the group tournament. They also recruited Collin Martin [San Diego Loyal], Cole Bassett [Colorado Rapids], and some more USL players from Louisville City FC.
“Being able to compete and play video games, it brings people together,” said Farrell. “It brings guys from all around the league [MLS], different levels of different leagues, and they’re able to come together and compete for a good cause.”
Fortnite is a constant in the Revolution players’ routines. Bye won the solo tournament and ‘Team Turner,’ consisting of Bye, Rennicks and Turner himself took home the 'W' in the team competition.
MLS players are not the only ones who have been searching for ways to help combat COVID-19. One of the New England Revolution's official supporters groups, The Rebellion, and their home bar, Brass Monkey in Providence, R.I., created a GoFundMe page to gather donations for this cause.
Of the $3,000 raised from Farrell's Fortnite tournaments, $1,100 was given to The Rebellion’s efforts to support those affected by the coronavirus locally in New England.
The remaining $1,900 was donated to the One Louisville COVID-19 Response Fund, which is responding to efforts in the Louisville area, Farrell's hometown.
Being part of a team breeds togetherness. Whether that’s the Revolution, other MLS clubs, or any organization, everyone is fighting on the same team now to flatten the curve of COVID-19.
Farrell said that he is planning to try to host an additional tournament to raise money. You can check in on his efforts on Twitter and Instagram at @2fast2farrell. You can also continue to do your part by practicing social distancing.
We’re all in this together. We all need to put our best face first to stop the spread. We will all be back to soccer soon, and when we are, it will be even stronger.