Gerard Pique's new 'Kings League' seven-a-side competition is utterly bonkers
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Gerard Pique retired in November but has been very busy after setting up 'Kings League', an utterly mental but seven-a-side competition.
The Barcelona legend has had a number of intriguing ventures in recent times. He launched overhauls of the Davis and Spanish Super Cups and organised the inaugural 'Balloon World Cup' alongside Twitch streamer Ibai Llanos in 2021.
Pique and Llanos have teamed up again for another wild creation, though this time it does at least involve football.
Sunday 1 January marked the launch of the the new league, which has a total of 12 teams who have a squad of 12 available.
The first 10 players were picked in an NFL style draft which was streamed live on Twitch, while the remaining two spots go to former or current professionals.
Already former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, still playing for LA Galaxy, has been involved, as has World Cup winner Joan Capdevila.
Former Red Bull Salzburg striker Jonathan Soriano has also featured but one of the most interesting members of the league is 'Enigma', a masked and completely covered up player.
Wearing the No.69 shirt, it's claimed the player currently plays in La Liga and has been wearing the disguise because he was not granted permission to play.
La Liga chief Javier Tebas wasn't a big fan of the idea, saying: "I can't imagine doing the Enigma thing in La Liga. It's a circus. It's not a matter of attracting a young audience or not. I've read that they compare and they're wrong."
Gerard Pique is running a 7-a-side league in Spain called @kingsleague. The teams have presidents like Aguero and Casillas. This week, a current LaLiga player who wasn't allowed by his club and agent to take part played with a mask and under the name Enigma to hide his identity. pic.twitter.com/HWmvAPkHTi— David Kappel (@kappilinho) January 11, 2023
Iker Casillas and Sergio Aguero are both presidents of teams in the league, which takes place in a warehouse in Barcelona and has a unique set of rules.
Games are every Sunday and comprise of two twenty-minute halves and teams play each other twice. It's also sounding very normal, but then you must also know that kick-offs are straight out of water polo and see players charge at each other from their goal-line when the whistle is blown.
Subs are unlimited and there are sin bins for yellow and red cards. VAR is in use but only upon request and teams only get one review per game - with a successful appeal meaning they can call upon it again.
Penalty shoot-outs - which happen in the event of a draw - are hockey style, with players starting from the halfway line and having a one-on-one chance with the goalkeeper but needing to score within five seconds.
Fans have the power to vote on rules and there are 'Golden Cards' which vary from instant penalty, rob a card, remove an opposition player for two minutes, goal in the next minute counts double, and the classic joker card.
Hernandez's foray into the world is set to be brief given he's heading back to the MLS but he very much enjoyed the experience.
"Some people think [projects like these] are recreational, but it's much more than that, it is a great opportunity for everyone involved," he told ESPN.
"The level really surprised me, although what did not surprise me was the intensity and desire everyone played with. I didn't want to come from Los Angeles just to kill time. I wanted to play, win, score."
Viewing figures have been strong, with a peak of 800,000 viewers watching the first set of fixtures online. A 'Queens League' is to follow in May.