Barcelona

I told my mum before FUT Champions Barcelona that if I got any prize money, I’d pay for her to visit San Francisco.

She’s wanted to go there since she was a kid, and I wanted to show my appreciation for all the support she’s given me.

She’s going to San Francisco in December.

My parents have reacted to the FIFA thing in quite different ways. My dad doesn’t know much about all of it to be honest, of course, he knows that I’m doing well and that it’s worth doing, but he’s not super involved.

I used to tell him that I was really good at FIFA, and I remember telling him that I‘d qualified for an event in Barcelona, and he sort of just said “oh…that’s cool”

I’m planning on getting a Liverpool season ticket for both of us when I can.

My mum is the opposite; she’s really into it. She has supported me the entire time and actively tries to understand more about it every day. She helps me a lot.

During qualifying month for Barcelona, my mum knew that my weekends were important. She knew that I had a chance to get to my first event and made sure that I could concentrate on the game and my qualification.

I’ve always been into football for as long as I can remember so it was a no-brainer that I got into FIFA, to be honest.

I was lucky enough that my parents bought it for me when I was pretty young, I even remember playing the game in primary school, and I’ve just been playing it since then really.

I’ve played it for years but obviously, I wasn’t always as good as I am now. I didn’t pick the game up and instantly realize that I was a great player, or that there was a competitive scene for the game. I just slowly got better and better.

When FIFA 17 was released along with FUT Champs, the new game mode, I started to realize that I was a lot better than I thought I was.

That when was the 40 game weekend league came in, and I started matching professional players that I’d heard of before, and sometimes even beating them. I thought maybe I’d just got lucky or they were messing around, so I entered some tournaments online. Winning some of those tournaments opened my eyes to the possibility of competing in FIFA.

Barcelona was a funny event because no-one watching the even had any idea who I was.

At that point, most of my wins had come from the online leagues and random online tournaments, so I wasn’t even close to being a big name. I was a nobody in comparison to some of the names there, at least in the eyes of the viewers.

For the competitors there it was a different story. All of them knew who I was, they’d played me online and knew that I had some talent.

I knew that I wanted to win the entire event because I always want to win. That’s not to say I expected to win, because I honestly didn’t.

A couple of days before the event, everyone got the brackets and fixture list. I’d been matched against Kurt, one of the favourites to win the whole thing.

Instead of being intimidated I decided that it would be a good test to gauge where I am compared to those guys, in an offline environment. I ended up losing it by one goal in the last minute of the game, but more importantly, I realized that I could compete with these guys. Despite losing, it was actually a massive confidence boost.

We faced off again later in the tournament and I beat him 5-1.

I had quite a bit of confidence heading into Barcelona and I got a boost right before the games started. A lot of the players get together before the official matches start and play against each other, just to warm up really, and I won pretty much all of my warm-up games.

As the tournament went on, the desire to win slowly shifted into an expectation to win. By the latter stages of the tournament, I knew that not winning the whole thing would be a bitter disappointment.

Everyone under 18 had to bring their legal guardian to Barcelona, so I brought my biggest fan, my mum. It was good because I could go and chat with her between matches, tell her the result, and talk about how I’m feeling about how it’s going.

I knew that a little bit of hype was building around me as I managed to get into the later stages of the tournament, but on the last day when the playoffs began, my phone lost battery, and I had no way to check social media.

It was only when I got a break between the Xbox final and the Playstation final, that I was finally able to charge my phone. That’s when I noticed that I had 36,000 followers on Twitter. When I’d checked the day before that number had been maybe 600.

I think it didn’t really dawn on me at the time just how much people were hyping me up. Of course, I still had an event to play and my mind was mainly on that, but thinking back to that moment, it was pretty mad.

When I’m in the game I have no problem just focusing on the game itself, so the outside hype and the social media growth wasn’t in my mind at all during the final.

I’ve never really cared about money, to be honest. It was nice to take home $22,000 – whatever that is in pounds – but mainly I was just thinking about the win.

From the morning of the final to getting back to my house in England, I didn’t sleep at all.

I was awake all of Sunday night and the entire flight home. The buzz of winning lasted a lot longer than I expected, and I just couldn’t shake the adrenaline.

I set up a business email address when I got home and finally managed to sleep. When I woke up I already had a bunch of offers appearing in my inbox. Invites to go and visit different places, organizations wanting to fly me out to their offices, that sort of thing.

I wasn’t interested in any of the emails. It was a tweet from F2 that drew my attention.

I’ve been a long time viewer of the F2 videos on YouTube. Obviously, as a kid interested in football, they’re really fun guys to watch.

Being a fan of them helped influence the decision but I also realized that joining them would be a massive boost to my social media and marketability as well, so, in the end, it was an easy choice.

Doing videos with them has just been an amazing bonus, to be honest.

My favourite moment so far has been meeting Steven Gerrard. I took a penalty in front of him and managed to put it top bins, which is surprising given how nervous I was. I was much more nervous taking that penalty than I was in the final of the tournament in Barcelona!

Gerrard is my all-time favourite Liverpool player so meeting him was amazing.

The main goal now is to win every tournament I can attend. I want to become a world champion, and I want to achieve that next year. F2 are encouraging me to do what I need to be the best I can be. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the world championships this year, but I have my sights set on 2019.

If I play at the top of my game I can beat anyone. I know that sounds overconfident but it’s the truth, I just have to work on being consistent at every event I play in.

Image Credit: F2, EA Sports

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