The Cult of FIFA | Inside the world of Professional eSports

The Cult of FIFA | Inside the world of Professional eSports


YYYYEEEEAAHHHH!!!! It was probably my 10th birthday. I had invited a bunch of my mates round, probably about 10 or 15. We went to play football and
then came back to play FIFA on the Xbox. Because I was the birthday boy, I went on first. Then we decided to do winner stays on but I remember my Mum saying that when she initially came in when we were starting, to two or three hours later, she still saw me sitting on the
controller. She thought I was being greedy when in reality, it was winner stays on. 2012, I heard about Virgin Gaming. I heard about a tournament for $400,000. I was like ‘wow’. I was playing on a website online betting. If you win, you get the money. If
you lose, you lose the money. I was winning a tremendous amount. Not only that, my peers, or the couple of peers I knew online, who were apparently the best in the world back then, told me I should qualify for a tournament. I thought: “I have to go and play in New York. What?” But then the prize money came out. First it was $100,000 and that made me get
into it. For example, there were three tournaments in Europe: Munich, Paris and Berlin. For all the players, you could qualify online. Anybody at home, if they were good enough, could qualify online and then go to the tournament. Of course, it’s a life changing amount of money. $200,000 – it’s not what you can buy your hot dog for but it’s a lot. I just focus more on the honour
of winning the trophy and to make my fans, family and Ajax proud. If you win the money, not even I can imagine what happens then. In Berlin when I done really well, there were
little kids asking for my photo. I was like: “What? Why do you want a photo with me? I just play FIFA.” eSports is only getting bigger and these kids actually look up to us. I looked up to these guys that are hear now. I wish I could be like them, I wish I could compete
in tournaments like them. It’s just like real sports – you have icons which you look up
to and want to be like. It’s a strange thing which is happening to me, people looking up to me, but it’s really nice. When eSports started in, let’s say, 20 years ago, it was in
a gymnasium, like a small club with 50 people in it, organising a small tournament. The
biggest prize was winning a headset – each person in the winning team would win a headset. Here we are today and the winners are winning millions of dollars. I think FIFA has always been big in terms of the amount of people playing it across the world. Obviously, football is such a popular sport. This year, we’ve seen the competitive side of FIFA eSports world grow. For a number of reasons: first off, we saw other eSports grow and I think
the people at EA, at FIFA and those playing the game saw the opportunities there. This competition is 13 years old but it has never been like it is now, even in the last year – the prize pot has been times
by 10 which is crazy. It’s because we’ve seen the potential in other eSports is because
professional clubs have been coming into it, taking players under their wing, paying them a wage so they can concentrate on their FIFA. It becomes a profession. I’m an Ajax fan since I was born. My Dad taught me my first word which was Ajax! I played with friends and I play six hours a day when FIFA 12 came out. A year ago, I was just playing tournaments and I would have never expected a football club to sign a FIFA player and that it would
grow so big. It’s amazing that I can play for my favourite club. Not with football,
but with FIFA. I won a lot of tournaments in Holland. I won six out of eight live events in Holland. I also won a real Dutch championship so I was the best player in Holland. A lot of clubs were watching eSports and Ajax is the biggest club in Holland. They wanted to
best player at the moment and they called me. I couldn’t believe it at first. I had a person
called Bart on the phone. I couldn’t believe first that Ajax had called me and secondly,
that they wanted me. I’m still the same person. I love to do a lot of other things – it’s
not only FIFA. Of course, FIFA is important because it’s my work now and I play for the
biggest, and for me the most nice club in Holland: Ajax. I only want to win here. At first, my
goal was to qualify for this event in London, but now I’m here, I want to win. There is
nobody I’m scared or afraid of. When you say why people watching other people play video games? You can just answer them: “Why are you watching someone playing a game?” It is exactly the same. I know sport and eSports is different but it is a similar comparison. Sometimes, even myself when I’m watching a tournament at home I like, you’re jumping
out of your chair because there is suspense and amazing action. You hear the emotion when they’re playing. If someone scores a goal, you’re going to hear a “Let’s go!” or a big chant.
You’re going to hear… “COME ON!” Every time I show my emotions, it motivates myself
to play better and to kill the opponent. On the other side of that, if you lose a final here on Friday – the pain – it wouldn’t be a surprise if that player cried! “What’s the point of pass when it’s not going to do f****** do it?!” The difference is, it’s $200,000 for the winner and $40,000 for second place – $160,000 difference. That’s a salary for years for a lot of people. There’s so much emotion that people don’t think exists. I think people think it’s just a video game.
“If they lose, oh whatever they’ll be annoyed for 10 minutes.” People – it literally haunts them. There’s so much emotion which goes through the whole 20 minutes of playing FIFA. It’s unbelievable. I’ve been playing FIFA for as long as I can remember. This is the first year I’ve taken it religiously in terms of playing competitively. Last year, I was looking at these guys, looking up to them ” I want to be like them, I want to be where they are, playing in these types of tournaments” and here I am. I still don’t really believe it. I sacrificed a lot, playing online, all day, every day. Sometimes if my friends wanted me to go out, I would stay inside playing. The winner from last year, Mo-Bacha, I knew of him. I thought if he could do it, I could do it and that motivated me and I was like:
“I can become a FIFA pro.” In the first game, I went 2-0 against DETO. I was frustrated, I was doing clumsy passes, giving the ball away and needed to fix up. Luckily, he got
a man sent off and I was able to pull it back to 2-2. “LET’S GO MAN!” “COME ON!” When I scored the equaliser, I screamed. The first goal I scored, I didn’t scream because I knew it
wasn’t done yet. I knew I had to get one more goal. As soon as I equalised, I was like ‘yes,
come on, I’m back in’ and it was just a relief. So obviously, the main thing as a coach when you’re playing people between two different games is about Tass more than the other person. It’s about whether we think he’s using the formation productivity enough and because he’s normally he’s normally got two or three formations he can switch to so it’s about
which of his primary formations he should use against which player. We do have some background information on the players, so it’s more thinking about which would work best and how they have been performing in prior games. Maybe I would keep an eye on them. In the first game I was playing
a Canadian player. I had no clue what his playing style was or anything. Usually, at this
level, you would see the players playing so you maybe you could adjust online to what you think
he might do. I had no clue what to expect. Obviously from Canada I had a pre-expectation of his skill level and he completely exceeded it. I ended up going 1-0 down on the stroke
of half-time. Then went 2-0 down early in the second half. I scored a goal with 20 minutes to go which gave me hope and with the last kick of the game, Luis Suarez pops up with
a header from a corner to get a draw. A last minute goal. If it’s for the win, of course
[I’ll shout and celebrate], but even if it’s for a draw in the group stage, it feels like a win. I know I have the group of death so I know it is really hard, but of course all 32 players
are really good and everybody can beat anybody. In the first game, it was 1-1. I only gave
away one chance and it was in the 92nd minute and it was a goal. A tough game, but after
that I had to play against Tass. This game was a titan match-up. He went 1-0 up again. I hit the post with a one-on-one chance, always goes in, I hit the post and then he scored then it’s hard to turn around. I ended up winning 2-1, I believe 80th minute. I’m an Arsenal fan and I brought Son Heung-min off the bench and he buried one for the victory. Excited. Buzzing. I’m Robert Schulz and I’m one of the referees here for the grand final of the FIWC 2017. The game itself is pretty safe regarding cheats etc, but there are somethings a player can do which is seen as being unsporting. In the end, the most important thing is time waste. There are some small rules like don’t pause when the ball is not in play. This is also very, very unsporting. Two games in, and I’ve got two points at the moment. I don’t really know how everyone else is doing but
I’ve still got a chance to come out of the group so it’s a good thing. I’m frustrated with myself but I try and not go too hard on myself. I feel like I’ve been a bit unlucky. Last game was against NICOLAS and he beat me 1-0. I feel like it was a lucky goal – he’s
a really good player but I didn’t feel that he deserved to win. It’s really devastating.
I definitely need to win the next game to give myself a morale boost and a fighting
chance to know that I can still make it to the top four. Hopefully I win that next game
and I’ve just got to think how far I’ve come and how I came here and know I’m good enough to compete with these guys. In the third game, I beat RAFIFA 3-1 and I had the best first half of the tournament. I also changed my formation and it goes much better now. Now, after three games I’m back. Everyone wants to watch the best players.
Well, not everyone but a lot of people. You’re watching a game and you want to see the best action and want to see all the professionals and the best players in the world are playing.
When I go on my console and see, ‘Oh there is a big game today, there is big tournament, let’s see how they play and maybe even I can learn from them’. So they watch pro players because they’re so good and they can make good actions. I think YouTube is an interesting one. There’s a lot of players, a lot of the Hashtag United boys, a lot of other players, Roma as well, they do YouTube. A lot of people want to know how to get better. You’re playing for $200,000, you’re playing for big money. I can’t say I was one of the first. There is a lot of guys doing FIFA videos before me and I guess they were the ones who really laid the foundations and showed it was popular. I wasn’t the guy
who went ‘Yeah, I’m going to record FIFA and see if anyone would like it.’ I knew people
liked it, I knew people were doing it, I just thought I could add something different. I come from a football background more than a gaming background so I was hitting my content and my series from a football perspective, trying to make football stories with it, as opposed
to it being about playing games so maybe that’s why there was a little bit of room for that
as there is other people who do that as well. I think the best videos at the moment are
those from pro players explaining how you do things like changing players, what shot
technique you should choose to use. That is why a lot of people do like to watch these
events. You do get your two guys who play FIFA. You get your ones who like a joke with their mates on a Saturday night and you get your ones I wanna, ‘If I can get a salary with a club, I can sign a contract with a club that would be pretty cool.’ We all play FIFA for a living. So, this is like our job. If we want to live alright, we have to win at these tournaments. This is what we’re here for. When I found out I was out, I just walked away and burst into tears. It’s a horrible
feeling – it’s like getting knocked out in the Champions League final. It’s horrible. I think
this has helped me mentally because this year, I’ve experienced so many different emotions. I think it will only help me prepare for the next big thing. FIFA 18 what that drops, I’m going
in put in even more work. Hopefully I can qualify for another FIWC final and win it.
It’s horrible. You put in so many hours in every week and every day, grinding and playing the game, playing FUT Champions to qualify. Then to go to the Grand Final, you want to
make a name for yourself. You want to do well, you want to make sure all the hard work pays off and today it just didn’t, so it’s really devastating. I’m upset but I’ve got to learn from it and move on. After my first two games, I had a draw and a win. It was actually looking very good although I had back-to-back games against the two superstars in the group. Obviously, I won the first one and then against ROCKYY, I lost 1-0 but I was still in a very comfortable position. It wasn’t the end of the world. But then, after those two superstars games
I had THEE BULLOCK and we drew 2-2. I felt like I should have won it so, when you draw
but you feel like you should have edged it, it’s a bit of a killer. However, even with that draw
with five points I was like, ‘Ok’, there was three games left. That next game, I went 1-0 up against RAFIFA and lost 3-1 after going 1-0 up. I think that was the killer. It was the game
after the BULLOCK game. To go 1-0 up and lose 3-1, it’s very unlike me. I always think it’s
not meant to be sometimes. I was a little bit nervous at every game But the last game I just focused, not nervous, because I had a lot of confidence because I played really good two games before. I knew if I won, I was for sure through to the next round. I tried to score the first goal, because he needed to score two goals then. It would also mean I would have to concede a few goals to go out. He scored in the 87th minute to make it 1-0 and at the point, I
wasn’t dominating but the only one with a good chance. It was hard and was watching to my left if AMEGHESSIB was winning because he needed to win with a two or three goals difference and it was 1-1 with only 10 minutes left so I already knew I was through and it is an amazing feeling to be at the top 16 of the world. I was feeling really confident because the last three games yesterday were really good at the group stage. I felt that if I just stayed calm today and
focus then I would be alright and I did. My first game was like the best game I played in this tournament. He scored a little bit lucky in the 90th minute to get a draw. In the second game, he was really good on ball possession, he was really good holding the ball and I lost that game. My first goal was to qualify for this but it was only a dream. It was already a dream before I played at Ajax so playing at Ajax is a dream and then playing for Ajax at the highest level, at the last 16 of the world is amazing of course. I can watch back to a great year. It’s more than Ajax expected for me so I did really great and next year, I’ll be back for sure. I love FIFA, with a passion. This whole FIFA, I’ve
played almost 2000 games of Ultimate Team. I think I usually play between five or six
hours a day. I love football and FIFA. I’m inspired by both the pros and YouTubers because that’s what I want to go into, something like media and YouTube because I’ve always loved it ever since I’ve been watching it as a 13-year-old. I think it inspires a lot of younger
people and the younger generation on how you can be nothing to something bigger. You can broadcast yourself amongst many, many other people and they can see what you’re up to and you
can come to events like this. This is huge. I feel like it’s just a matter of time. Everyone
is a little bit nervous at the moment to invest but when it does all invest, it will go ‘BANG! and I’ll reckon transfers [will happen], everything, it will go crazy. It has become part of the football experience for the younger people and I think as the generations grow
up, you’re going to see it transcend the line and just be part of football. For me, Premier League how long before they get involved? Every club has a player – then there’s maybe like a TV show on Sky or BT. You can see these players moving on transfer deadline day between clubs. You can see Jim White talking about it in his yellow tie. All these things
can happen. It doesn’t have to take the place, or be more popular or less popular or in competition with mainstream football. It just becomes part of it and complements it. It’s a dream job if you ask a 10-year-old what would you want to do to get paid for? If you told them you could play for their local team, whether that
be Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and get paid to play, that’s the dream. It’s
not a bad life, is it? I would love to be a pro FIFA player. I’m quite competitive at the moment. I’m trying. I’ve played GORILLA myself – it was a close game, he only beat
me 2-0! I would like to say that I’ll get there one day, hopefully, but it’s all about dedication. You have to commit your life to it. Even if I was good enough, which I’m not, I would not have been here because I wouldn’t have the weekends spare. You have to put every weekend aside – 40 games you have to play. It takes, at best, 16-17 hours If you’re having a break, which
you should, it is going to be a whole weekend gone. I was never going to be here regardless, but there’s a reason they did that, is to make sure people are taking it seriously they are making it their life, their job and obviously these guys have all done that. It’s a very hard process. What’s
good about it, is you haven’t got to be the best to enjoy it. You might not qualify for
here, but you can get crazy rewards and in-game incentives that, based on where you finish
and rank against other people in the world, the better you do, the better the rewards
you get. Which is why I think this past FIFA has changed everything with FUT Champions mode. You can be nothing, you can just be a randomer and end up in an event like this,
playing in front of millions of people. Technology has just changed life. For example, when I was growing up as 10-year-old, 12-year-old the only thing in primary school and early secondary school you would talk to your mates about in London is ‘What team do you support?’ Who do you love?’ Whereas now kids, growing up in this generation are like ‘Who are your favourite YouTubers? Who are your favourite eSports
players?’ So, I think culturally, it’s just changed a bit. I would still say the love
for the game is still there for sure.

17 Replies to “The Cult of FIFA | Inside the world of Professional eSports”

  1. Sorry im a bit tooo old school for some of you kids but I see this as the wrong direction for Football! How can Fifa promote this as a professional sport ? This only promotes being lazy staying inside not actually playing Football itself! A young kid wanting to be a footballer will look at this and say well being a football player will be almost impossible so i might take up playing video games as a job and get paid for it. WHAT?? this is so wrong yes we all love to play Fifa i use to when I had time but kids that spend hours on this and wanting to become a pro is just madness! Im 30 years old and the feeling of kicking a ball in the park when its cold or sunny is still the best feeling and dreaming that you can play like your heroes adds the love of the sport. Fifa should focus on grassroots football around the world and not utter nonsense such as this!

  2. It's toxic just cause fifa is rigged nowadays and you are required to play so many games on certain days and maintain a win average.

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