For the first time Johan Cruyff Academy welcomes esports professionals to class

October 2, 2019

For the first time Johan Cruyff Academy welcomes eSports professionals to class

Three esports professionals from Team Gullit, AFC Ajax Esports and FC Groningen Esports have been admitted to Johan Cruyff Academy to start a degree in sport marketing alongside other professional athletes, despite not being officially recognized by the Dutch Olympic Committee

Everyone knows someone who plays video games, but not so many know people in the professional esports environment, and even fewer know professionals who combine esports with a degree in sport marketing. Johan Cruyff Academy, faithful to its mission of offering elite athletes the opportunity to combine their sports career with a four-year degree in sport marketing, has welcomed the first three professional esports players this year, two in Amsterdam and one in Groningen.

Their admission is exceptional, because it is not very common that an elite athlete without an official status from NOC*NSF, the Dutch Olympic Committee and Sports Federation, is able to study at Johan Cruyff Academy. The three esports players do not have that status, but Johan Cruyff Academy has now decided that it is time to admit the first esports players, in a way that reverberates Johan Cruyff’s innovative way of doing things. Jens van der Flier (Team Gullit), Bob van Uden (AFC Ajax Esports) and Nick den Hamer (FC Groningen Esports) have all shown exceptional talent and reached a high level in esports, which is why the Johan Cruyff Academy has decided to admit them to its study program under the same admission requirements as for any other elite athlete.

For the first time Johan Cruyff Academy welcomes eSports professionals to class

Jens van der Flier.

Jens van der Flier from Team Gullit is studying at Johan Cruyff Academy Amsterdam. For Maarten Sonneveld, the marketing manager at Team Gullit, it’s obvious that Jens is practicing elite sports: “The definition of top sport is not invariable, but it generally consists of three components: extensive and dedicated training, performing at a high level, and in a certain branch of sport. If you follow FIFA esports players such as Jens, you can easily conclude that professional training and high performance are required. The only question that remains is whether it is ‘sport’. As far as we are concerned, this is absolutely the case, because just like in ‘traditional sport’, top-level esports cannot be practiced without being in excellent physical and mental condition,” says Maarten.

Jens himself is very glad that he has the opportunity to combine esports with full-time study at Johan Cruyff Academy. He is looking forward to it because “the subject of sport marketing seems very interesting to me. I am curious how this world works, and I would like to gain new knowledge, and put it into practice after graduation. Also, you spend time in class with like-minded student-athletes, who all have the same ambition to reach the top in their sport. I think I can learn a lot from them as well, and we can help each other.”

Esports and the FIFA game

Esports is the name for computer games in which teams or individual players compete. This is largely done online, but also at major events. The best-known game is League of Legends, but the FIFA game has a huge audience. “Jens is one of the most talented young FIFA players in the world,” says Maarten, “and recently he started to represent AZ esports, the football club that’s playing in the Dutch Eredivisie. He has appeared several times in the global top 100 of FIFA players.”

The world of sport has changed and esports is a new phenomenon whose impact and reach cannot yet be reliable estimated. “Esports has grown into an international industry that nowadays involves billions,” says Maarten, adding that “the sector is in a transitional phase, in the process of obtaining recognition as an ‘official’ sport. Some of them can earn a salary as esports players, but most don’t reach the levels of other professional athletes.”


Johan Cruyff Academy

The Johan Cruyff Academy offers elite athletes an opportunity to balance sports with a four-year Bachelor of Business Administration program in Sports Marketing, a learning track of Commercial Economics. This program is exclusively offered to students who practice sports at the highest levels in The Netherlands and it is delivered in Dutch.

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