You probably think you’re pretty good at FIFA, don’t you? But are you good enough to represent an actual Premier League club?
The first ever ePremier League kicked off back in December, pitting the very best FIFA 19 players of the UK together to fight it out for a place in the final in London.
For 32 lucky players aged 16 and over, playing FIFA professionally for an actual Premier League club is now a reality, so we headed to the Gfinity Area – situated on Fulham Broadway, merely yards away from Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium – to check out the final and to see just how good these players are.
We first sat down Kyle ‘KyleLeese_’ Leese and Josh ‘Jonesy17FIFA’ Jones of Man United to play a couple of games of FIFA (all of which we lost, of course) and discuss just how all of this started, where they think the ePremier League will go from here and what tips they would give to casual FIFA players, like us.
Dream Team: So first of all, how on earth do you get into playing FIFA professionally?
Kyle: I’ve always had a passion for the game, I’ve been playing football for my local team on Sundays for years and playing FIFA just progressed from there. Before long, I realised I was good enough to compete and just progressed through. I started beating my mates and I could beat my brother, so I just took the plunge really.
Josh: FIFA 17 was when I started playing against really good players and I realised I was quite good at it, so I thought I should try to test myself against the best.
DT: How did the link up with Man United happen?
Kyle: I saw that the ePL was starting and they were looking for players for an online qualifier, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’d put all that time into playing – playing over 100 games – and then when the draw came I was able to win.
Josh: It’s definitely surreal. When I went into the qualifiers to get to this point, I really didn’t expect to get here. It’s just a mad feeling.
DT: But why Man United?
Josh: I’m a big Man United fan – I’m even a season ticket holder – so it was an easy decision for me.
Kyle: It’s always been United for me, I’ve always supported them because of my dad. Representing them is a boyhood dream, the privilege is a unbelievable. We even got the chance to play [Man United players] Fred and Andreas Pereira. They were really nice guys, although Pereira was confident he was going to beat me!
DT: Wow, that’s amazing, were they any good?
Kyle: Yeah, they were actually pretty good. I had the chance to play 1v1 against Pereira while Jonesy and I played 2v2 with them and we only won 2-1! They defended hard so we only two shots against them.
DT: Who’s your favourite Man United player then?
Josh: There’s so many! But I’d go with Marcus Rashford, but on FIFA it’s probably Pogba.
Kyle: I’m currently using the Player of the Month version of Rashford in my FIFA team at home and he’s very good. He’s easily my favourite player. But having Pogba in your team is pretty great too.
DT: Is there quite a close relationship between you and Man United and do you feel as if you’re part of the team?
Kyle: The day before the Manchester derby, they invited us down to watch the team training session and I got to see the all the players afterwards. It’s great because they treat us like I’m one of the players and they even said I’m a part of the team. It’s just unbelievable.
DT: What’s the team you want to beat the most?
Kyle: It’s got to be City or Liverpool!
Josh: Probably Connor, the Man City player. He’s a funny guy and we talk a lot, but I love it when I beat him!
DT: So let’s go way back; can you remember which edition of FIFA was your very first?
Josh: The first FIFA I remember getting was FIFA 10, but that one I usually just played with against my mates. I started playing competitively with FIFA 17.
Kyle: For me it was FIFA 12 on the Xbox 360, I guess I got into the game a little late.
DT: And what made you pick up the game?
Kyle: I think it was my brother’s game, he was really good back then. I just borrowed it and got better!
DT: To get as good as you are, how many hours a day are you dedicating to FIFA?
Kyle: I don’t really have a set amount of hours a day, but during release week you’re putting in about six hours a day minimum, that’s if you want to be the best and learn the new game mechanics, get used to a team and figure out which players are good.
DT: Is it quite stressful when EA Sports release a new game?
Kyle: Yeah, because you’ve got to learn the new stuff. You don’t know what it’s going to be like, as every game is slightly different. It’s stressful learning all that stuff.
DT: I guess it was kind of hard to explain this all to your family at first?
Josh: At first, yeah, because when I was playing a lot they didn’t really understand it – not many do understand it, to be honest – but now they’ve seen how good I am and they’re completely behind me.
DT: Let’s have some tips then! What would you say to someone like us who play FIFA a little bit in their spare time?
Kyle: Make you sure you nail down the game mechanics; so for example, knowing which kind of shot to use in different situations. Sometimes you might want to use a finesse shot, normally side of the box I’ll use a driven shot.
DT: Where do you see all of this going in the future?
Kyle: I think this is the start of something big, with this being the first ePremier League tournament. A Champions League-style tournament would be the next step up.
After getting absolutely battered by the United lads, we took on Man City’s Connor ‘iBattle Cat’ Keys to see if we could fare any better.
The 19-year-old from Wrexham played as a goalkeeper in youth football and still plays between the sticks for Rhos Aelydw in the third-tier of Welsh football. He’s been playing FIFA competitively for three years now and has high hopes for the future of the ePremier League.
DT: So Connor, how did this all start for you?
Connor: I remember playing FIFA 06 I think it was. I saw the game at a car boot sale believe it or not and my mum picked it up for me! I wasn’t massively into football before playing the game, but I’m from Wrexham so I’ve always been a Wrexham fan.
DT: Did you just pick it up and feel you had a natural talent for the game?
Connor: Yeah, I think I’ve always been naturally good at it. Every FIFA I’ve played I’ve felt good at, even on the Playstation! The thing I’ve had to practice the most over the years is attacking, because defending I feel I’m quite sound at.
DT: So how did you link up with Man City?
Connor: It was actually through the Gfinity elite series in August, I played in that and was partnered with Epsilon and it just carried on from there.
DT: Do you have a favourite player at City and have you met anyone from the team?
Connor: Ederson’s my favourite player, I haven’t played against any of them yet but I would love to meet Benjamin Mendy. He seems like a very funny guy.
DT: We agree with you there! So is Man United the team you want to beat the most?
Connor: I want to beat Liverpool the most. The guy who plays for them – you might’ve heard of him, he’s called ‘F2Tekkz’ – he’s just incredible this year. He’s won over £200,000 in prize money already, so he’s the one to beat.
DT: That’s an incredible amount of money. Would you say FIFA kind of dominates your life now, then?
Connor: I think it’s different for me because I have a day-to-day job and I always try to make the time to go out with my mates, so I really just play FIFA when I can. I guess for me that makes the game more enjoyable. When it gets to a point that you’re playing FIFA because you feel like have to, it’s just horrible.
DT: We desperately need some tips [we’re 2-0 down to Connor by this stage], what sort of advice would you give to casual FIFA players out there who want to get better?
Connor: I think the best way to improve is to simply play people who are better than you, and you just learn from there. Things like skill moves are something you can add to your game, which is something that completely changes the dynamic of how you play FIFA once you master it.
DT: What does your family think about all of this?
Connor: At first it was kind of like ‘oh, you’re playing that game on the Xbox again’ but then my dad went to my first ever event with me in Barcelona and he saw it all first-hand. He explained it all to my mum and now they’re totally behind me and giving me all their support which is just fantastic. Having your family backing you while you’re chasing your dream is really important.
DT: You’re playing at such a high level now, do you feel any pressure?
Connor: I don’t really feel pressure. It’s just such an honour, you know? This is the very first time they’re doing something like this, so it’s great to be a part of it and I want to be a part of it for many more seasons. But FIFA can be stressful at times, especially when people expect you to make it into certain tournaments, so I like to play other games like Fortnite or Battlefield to just chill out.
DT: Where do you think the world of esports – especially with FIFA – will go from here?
Connor: If they keep doing tournaments like this then it’s just brilliant exposure to what we’re all doing. Getting the fans involved with it all too is just great, because a lot of people don’t really know about esports in general so it opens a whole new world. Like, hang on, you get paid to play games? That’s just surreal!
To watch the action live from the inaugural ePremier League final and see the twenty Premier League clubs going head-to-head on FIFA 19, tune into Sky Sports or the EA SPORTS FIFA Twitch channel: https://www.twitch.tv/easportsfifa