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What’s it like to be a real-life Pokémon trainer?

Welcome to Pokémon Worlds, the wholesome tournament where childhood dreams can come true

Like many 90s kids, when I was 10 I dreamed of becoming a Pokémon Master. From car journeys spent craning my neck over a Game Boy screen while battling through Victory Road, to cranking the Pokémon album on my Discman, I was determined to be the very best. Life had other plans for me but, as I discovered on a sunny August weekend this year, for 5,000 dedicated competitors across the globe the dream is very much alive.

After a Covid-mandated three-year hiatus, the Pokémon World Championships have returned. And this year, Pikachu and pals took over London, coating the ExCel centre’s concourse with Poké-paraphernalia – even transforming the nearby cable car over the Thames. Surrounded by 100-foot-tall inflatable Pikachus and a stadium-worthy stage, this once drab conference hall is now a makeshift battleground for aspiring trainers young and… well, I’m not ready to call myself old yet. Less young? That’ll do.

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