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25 Dec, 2020 12:38

Championship Manager’s ‘greatest ever player’, Maxim Tsigalko, dies aged 37

Championship Manager’s ‘greatest ever player’, Maxim Tsigalko, dies aged 37

Belarusian former footballer Maksim Tsyhalka – who earned legendary status with fans of the popular Championship Manager computer game under the name Maxim Tsigalko – has died at the age of 37.

The Minsk-born striker emerged through the youth ranks as a prolific goalscorer at local club Dinamo, then bursting into the first team squad and helping them to the Belarusian Premier League title in 2004.

He also made two appearances for the Belarusian national team, scoring once.

By that time, however, Tsyhalka had earned iconic status among legions of football fans for his remarkable performances on the 2001/02 edition of the Championship Manager video game, where he was hailed as the game’s ‘greatest ever player’ for his incredible value for money for players who opted for him as a bargain buy.

Known as Maxim Tsigalko in the game, the Belarusian would guarantee goals for gamers due to a quirk provided by Antonio Poutillo, the man in charge for selecting the stats for Belarus players at the time.

"I was young then. I believed football in Belarus has a future. So there were no restrictions on the percentage you could put on a player," Poutillo has said of his love of Tsyhalka.  

"I loved Tsyhalka very much. He was quick, had a sense of goal, and in the small classes he shone. He had everything he needed to become a class aggressor.

"It was also international, so I put him in a high degree of reputation (one of the most important elements of whether the player would be available in all the tournaments in the game).

"Suddenly, the forums had fired. You could get him with a little money. He'd guarantee you a goal in almost every game."

Tsyhalka’s legend spawned T-shirts and merchandise which far outweighed his actual success and status on the pitch, where his career was tragically cut short at the age of just 26 due to a knee injury.

The footballer was reportedly oblivious to his iconic computer game status before being informed of it by a Russian journalist.

He is said to have turned to construction work after his football career ended but struggled due to injuries and health problems.

In a 2018 interview he appealed for financial help so he could provide for his family and two children, prompting a petition to be set up in his name.

"Maxim Tsigalko, the greatest CM player ever, has changed million of players' lives. Now it's our turn to make his life easier,” it read, according to a profile in SportBible.

"No matter the country, no matter the team, Maxim was always there for us, the championship/football manager lovers. Now, we are standing by him."

The cause of death for Tsyhalka was not reported by local outlet Tribuna.com, but his tragic passing at such a young age will be mourned by Championship Manager fans the world over.