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Dutch icon Ruud Gullit switched on by esports

Ruud Gullit won soccer league titles in Italy and the Netherlands and his flowing dreadlocks, together with Marco van Basten's wondergoal, were the abiding memories of the Dutch side that won the 1988 European Championship.

He also won the Ballon d'Or in 1989 and is regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation, but these days most teenagers associate him first and foremost with EA Sports' video game FIFA.

Gullit, 55, is listed as an 'icon' alongside Brazil great Pele and Argentina's Diego Maradona in the latest version of the soccer simulator, FIFA 18, which has already sold 10 million copies worldwide.

In last year's FIFA Interactive World Cup staged in London he was thrilled to see both finalists fielded computer-generated Gullits in their teams.

Witnessing that event opened his eyes to the sheer size of esports and is why Team Gullit -- an Academy offering coaching and analysis for aspiring professional gamers -- was launched in January.

Like most people born pre-1970, Gullit has taken a while to get his head around the idea of professional esports players.

But having watched Britain's Spencer 'Gorilla' Ealing beat Germany's Kai Wollin and walk away with a $200,000 cheque last August, Gullit realised esports had evolved from "geeky" kids fiddling with their controllers in "stinky" bedrooms.

Next month the NBA will become the first American professional sports organisation to launch an esports league.

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