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He is German, 23 years old, and has gone from playing at home with his brother to being asked by football world champion Kylian Mbappé and other world-class players for advice on how to improve their game.
Mohammed ‘MoAuba’ Harkous is the current FIFA eWorld Cup 2019 World Champion and today he has become a leading figure in eSports.

Last year he attended The Best FIFA Football Awards with the world’s best players, where he met Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Alisson Becker, Luka Modric, among others, as well as Mbappé with whom he shared some tips. “That was surprising, I thought I’m a fan boy and they are really interested about that. Also, now in the corona break all the football players want to play game because they are at home and play FIFA, so they ask for tips, and it’s amazing,” confessed the professional player, who was a special guest of the AIPS e-College on May 21, alongside Will Shand, FIFA Media Relations Manager, Manuel Ezberci, FIFA eFootball Competitions & Events Manager, and Brandon Smith, Esports Commentator.

FIFA is a football simulation game and the EA Sports FIFA Global Series provides a competitive ecosystem where players compete weekly to earn ranking points at marquee live events, which players can qualify for through online competitions. The three major FIFA tournaments are: FUT Champions Cup, FIFA eClub World Cup and FIFA eNations Cup. The top 128 in the Global Series Rankings on FIFA.gg will get one more opportunity to earn points at the playoffs. Then, the top 32 competitors in the rankings after the playoffs will advance to the FIFA eWorld Cup, where world champion will be crowned. Players and teams are competing for a prize pool of at least $3 million across this year’s Global Series tournaments.

The FIFA eWorld Cup 2019 Grand Final distributed a total of USD 500,000, of which MoAuba won USD 250,000. According to FIFA, the Grand Final “was streamed in six languages for the first time – Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Portuguese and Spanish – and was broadcast to more than 75 territories around the world,” which generated, “more than 47 million views across online platforms during the three-day event.” However, thinking about the future, they said that the development of the game is in its early stages. “I think we are in very early stages of competitive FIFA gaming and sports itself. FIFA is taking it seriously we are also working with our member associations to grow the sport in a sustainable way,” explained Ezberci, FIFA eFootball Competitions & Events Manager.

Today, millions of people in the world play FIFA and hundreds dream of becoming professional players. But MoAuba was not so clear about this from the beginning. It all started as a child’s game, when he was about 8 years old, he loved to watch and play football and started playing on the console with his older brother, who was much better than him, but wanted to beat him. “That’s why I became so good,” he remembered. “I always wanted to win because I hate to lose, and eSport was not so big. I played my first tournament near my hometown, and you had to pay 20 euros, to win a Play Station 4; I beat some pro and I won the console, it was not money. But I didn’t know that you can become a champion, like this,” added MoAuba. After that, he was invited to participate in different tournaments, and he started to win money, so he realized eSports could be something.

He won his first prize money he was only 16 years old – 2000 euros, then he started to play in teams that could only cover the cost for his trips and T-shirts. “The first three years I played for a big eSport team, but they didn’t have money for FIFA […],” said the player. “But I think in 2017 I started to get money for months, I played for Expert Team, who was my sponsor. And I got good money for salary and then football clubs started to buy players to make eSports.”

However, as he touched FIFA´s sky with his hands, his grandparents didn´t understand what he was doing: “The first two years I said I was a professional football player, because they couldn´t understand that. But now when they come into my room and watch me, how my room is and how this is, they understand, but it is not easy.”

From there, MoAuba won five German championships and today he works as a professional player for Fokus Clan, a team that is sponsored by big brands like Audi and Zürich. In FIFA the season lasts 10 months and as in any league it is played on weekends. Every weekend MoAuba plays around 30 games, therefore in one season he plays a thousand games in order to get to the FIFA e-World Cup.

But the world of eSport is not only between the organizer, sponsors, teams, players, and fans but it also creates opportunities for journalists. As is the case with Brandon Smith, a young journalist, who now holds the title of Esports Commentator and has worked with EA Sports FIFA since 2017 on their Global Series for FIFA 2017, 2018 and 2019. He commentated in London in 2019 when MoAuba won the title: “I got to commentate the exact moment that he was crowd the champion, it was really, really special […] you can win the FUT Champions Cup, you can win the eNations Cup but nothings compares to winning the FIFA eWorld Cup,” described Smith.

To reach that level, MoAuba emphasized that the most important thing when playing is the mental preparation, because the game is very fast and several matches are played in one day. He assured that if a person wants to be a professional it is not necessary to play eight hours a day, the key is to know about football and always be ahead of the opponent’s play.

Source: Fátima Velarde| AIPS Young Reporter – Bolivia

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