Hoffenheim's Munas Dabbur is representing the club on the real-life field and the virtual world, playing FIFA 21 in the Virtual Bundesliga for the club alongside his daily life as one of the team's top scorers.
"Of course, you have to win. It's not like you play for nothing," Dabbur told bundesliga.com. "But of course, real life and the real Bundesliga is the best feeling ever."
Dabbur has scored four goals in 20 Bundesliga appearances for Hoffenheim this season, and has also represented the club twice in the Virtual Bundesliga. His first game was a disappointing 4-0 defeat to "xThePunisher-96" of Augsburg before the Israeli restored some pride with a 1-1 draw against Jahn Regensburg, and "xzxSvenxzx13".
"I couldn't find the way to create chances and score in my first game," Dabbur said. "If you're good in real life and know football, this can help you on the FIFA side."
The 28-year-old helped Hoffenheim secure a play-off place in the Virtual Bundesliga, while his goals have helped the Sinsheimers go on a recent upward turn in form to potentially spark a late push for a European place.
Dabbur, who regularly plays FUT's Weekend League on FIFA 21 and was a star of the 'Bundesliga Home Challenge' last year at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, will be looking to continue supplying the goods for Hoffenheim in both worlds.
He is a player who thrives on the big occasions, scoring against both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich this season, extending his impressive record in putting goals past none other than Manuel Neuer.
“I think I have played three times against Bayern and scored three goals,” he told bundesliga.com, referring to the brace he struck in Hoffenheim’s 4-3 DFB Cup loss in the last 16 in 2019/20.
Watch: Dabbur's chip over Neuer in Hoffenheim's 4-1 win over Bayern on Matchday 2
“It’s an amazing statistic, let’s put it like that. It’s very special of course to score against the best goalkeeper in the world and one of the best in history, for me at least, and for a lot of people. It’s a dream come true to be honest. When I signed for Hoffenheim and you start to think about the Bundesliga and the teams in the Bundesliga you are thinking about the two biggest teams, biggest clubs, Bayern and Dortmund.
“Of course you want to score against both, you try your best every game but it is something really special to score against Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund.”
His goal in the 2-2 draw away to Dortmund on Matchday 21 held extra significance as it came against his former Red Bull Salzburg teammate, Erling Haaland. The pair were only at the Austrian champions for a few months together in late 2019, before both moving to the Bundesliga in January 2020, but they remain close friends.
“We talk a lot, we’ve been in contact since I left Salzburg, he’s a great guy and I don’t have to say a lot about football because he’s doing great things,” Dabbur said. “I’m so happy for him and very proud of him also. We had a short time in Salzburg but we were always connected and are still in contact. He’s a good friend.
Watch: Dabbur on target in Hoffenheim's draw with Dortmund
“After what he did in Salzburg and especially in the Champions League and he decided to go to Dortmund, I was sure we was going to explode. His decision to join Dortmund, I said immediately it was the perfect step for him, it was what he needed, the ball in the box and he will do the job.
“In Dortmund he will get this enough times during a game. From the first moment you could see his power, his qualities, his energy, his killer eyes in front of goal. He doesn’t see anything other than the net, you could see that immediately.”
That is a trait Dabbur shares with the Norwegian, and the forward has two league goals in his last four outings – in addition to six in seven UEFA Europa League games this term – after struggling with injury earlier in the season and losing his place in the side.
“I’m sure I have to score much more, and I can score much more,” he said. “Luckily I played in the last two weeks and I scored the goals. I’m sure it will come in the near future.”
That confidence stems from him thriving off “the power, the intensity” of the Bundesliga, as well as his close relationship with head coach Sebastian Hoeneß.
“He’s a very good guy and a very good coach,” the 26-time Israel international said. “Of course it’s his first season now and you see the things he’s trying to give us and tell us. It’s very clear for everyone what he’s asking and this is a very good thing, that players can understand the coach and his way of training.
“I like these kind of coaches, they are calm, they know what they want. He’s a very friendly guy, very honest. You can always be in contact with him, also away from the pitch, this is really nice.”
All of which has helped Hoffenheim climb the table in recent weeks, with two wins and two draws – the team’s longest unbeaten run this season – lifting them up to 11th, now just nine points behind sixth-placed Dortmund.
“We’re not so far away from the European places, but of course we have to look game to game to get the points,” said Dabbur, eager to return to the European stage following Hoffenheim’s Europa League elimination in the round of 32 last month.
“Everything is possible. This is our goal. It’s been our goal from the beginning of the season and we’ll do our best to reach it.”