Hashtag United owner and FIFA YouTube sensation Spencer Owen is watching and/or playing in 30 football matches in 30 days throughout Movember in order to raise money and awareness for Movember. EA Sports are supporting the cause, donating £20,000 to the cause and releasing a Movember kit on FIFA 19 Ultimate Team.
The Movember Foundation are hoping to stop men dying too young - raising awareness around prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health issues and men’s suicide. Goal caught up with Owen to find out more about the campaign and why it means so much to him.
While 30 days of football sounds like a dream, it must also be pretty tiring. How has the campaign gone so far?
“It is tiring but I knew what I was getting myself into. It was really cool to go to the Hammers game – I was pitch side before kick off. Thanks to the West Ham guys for sorting that out.
“Fulham vs Bournemouth was day one and that was very enjoyable as a neutral – lots of goals. Craven Cottage is a lovely stadium. Day two I presented El Clasico for Eleven Sports which was a big privilege and pleasure. Monday I went to Birmingham for a pick-up game which was really fun – there was a good turnout. Then Tuesday I went to Northampton to watch an FA Youth Cup game with Scott Pollock, who played for Hashtag United but has now been signed by Northampton. He grabbed a goal and and an assist but wasn’t even firing on all cylinders. The lad is outrageously good.”
And you’ve said before that the Movember cause is one that is close to your heart, can you talk a little bit more about that?
“First and foremost the content I make and the audience that watches it, you're talking about a demographics that's predominantly young male, under 40 which is exact same demographic Movember are trying to reach out to and help them stop dying too young.
“I've unfortunately come into contact and know some friends that have suffered quite a lot with mental illness and that's one of the things Movember are looking at along with suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer which as we know have got some shocking stats. One man dies of prostate cancer every 45 minutes which is obviously a half of a football match and 12 men take their lives in the UK every day which obviously is a team of footballers and a manager. Those are pretty crazy stats but when you put them in the football context it brings it home a little more, especially as my content is football-based."
You’re still quite early into the campaign, but what impact have you had so far?
“We try to fundraise as much money as possible but it's all about spreading awareness as well, especially when I go to do these pick up games. I'm talking to 40, 50 lads who have turned up. It gives me a chance to physically talk to these guys and even just getting out and playing football is such a good thing for mental health, it can make a big difference.
“As a nation and a world, I think we're getting more and more accepting and understanding of mental health issues now – you see a lot of good campaigns on mental health day raising awareness. People understand it's a real illness. You can't see it like a broken leg but that doesn't mean it isn't there. If this can help a small part of what Movember Foundation do, then it's a great way to spend a month. All I've really got to do is give up a month of my life and there's a lot of people giving up more than that and losing a lot more than that to the stuff that Movember are working on.”
Of course giving up a month means you won’t have much time to play FIFA 19 but the game has been out for while now. What’s your impression of the latest game?
“The game changes a little bit every year and when FIFA 19 first came out I spent a fair bit of time on it – probably more than I had on any other game for a few years. I'm doing alright on the Weekend League for my standards! I'd say I'm probably better at it than I was last year's at this point which is good. What happens is you get used to every game, especially if you play a fair bit and and are involved in the community like I am, so you almost don't want the new game to come in a way because you've nearly mastered it. But of course you want all the new nice updates and the new players.
“I quite like on Ultimate Team now the amount of rewards you can get is more than ever. It's a lot of hours you have to put in, but if you can, within a balanced lifestyle of course, then you can get really good rewards without putting any money in the game. That's always been a criticism of FUT, that you have to put money in to get a good team but I don't think that's the case anymore. If you're half decent, you can get a great team just from playing.
“And in terms of the esports ecosystem, the amount of events there are now are insane. Literally every weekend there is something to qualify for. It's great for our esports boys, loads of chances to get in tournaments, win prize money, get up the ladder. The way you have to qualify for the eWorld Cup this year is probably the hardest but also the best I'd way of getting the best players at the event rather than last year where you had to get into the playoffs then it was the best 16 of those went through. Essentially you had to be good in one tournament whereas this year it's on a pro points system where you be good across the year, across multiple tournaments as opposed to one ridiculous performance. Consistency will be key for people to keep qualifying. Hashtag United have got great team morale at the moment.”
Speaking of Hashtag United’s esports team, you let Agge and Boas go this Summer as you mentioned a change of focus. What new direction are you going in?
“We're a content-based club, we obviously want to win above all else but if people are going to get the most out of playing for Hashtag, we need them in our content and vice versa. We need them in our content and for our fans to see them regularly and feel part of the journey. That hasn't always been possible with the lads we've had in the past who have been based overseas so we've tried to create a world where the lads can get over into the UK. Some were up for that and others weren't, based on their own lives. They've got other things going on and that's completely fine.
“Agge and Boras, both great players and great lads, we decided to end it there for their involvement with Hashtag and we wish them the best. Honey Badger currently lives in New Zealand but he is British and he's moving over as soon as he finishes uni in about a month. Our guys are UK based so we're getting them in the HQ regularly. They spend a lot of time together which really helps with things like the Gfinity Elite Series, which is 2v2 format so genuine teamwork is required. More time spent together, the better that connection is and it also means they're in the content regularly – we can film vlogs with them. The ones that like playing football like Ryan, Harry and Honey Badger are all playing in the Sunday League team so they're permeating across both sides of our content which is great for the players to get more fans behind them and have both our clubs have now become closer now.
“A lot of the football team boys came down to watch the Gfinity Elite Series the other week and vice versa. Harry I think goes to the games on Saturday. It's a much closer knit community we're creating now and we're a unique club in my opinion – there's not really anybody doing what we are and we want to celebrate that.”