We recently spoke to Julio ‘Beast’ Bianchi from Goliath Gaming’s FIFA squad about his dreams of making it big in the world of electronic football. More specifically, we wanted to learn about his qualification for the EA Sports FIFA 18 Global Series Playoff, where he will compete against 63 of the best FIFA 18 FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) players for 1 of 16 spots available at the FIFA eWorld Cup.
Yes, there was a lot of information to process there. And yes, much like Liverpool’s goalkeeper in the 2018 UEFA Champions League final, most of it went past us too. So we’ll put it more simply and take it slow:
Beast is off to Amsterdam at the beginning of June (GLHF: That’s in two days.) to hopefully take his next step along The Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup. While players can qualify by winning licensed local tournaments, like the recent R1.5million VS Gaming Cup, he qualified by ranking among the top 16 FUT players on PlayStation 4 in the world (GLHF: Nice and slow now: In. The. World.).
“I’ve been trying the whole year to qualify. It took me a long time to get to the level I was hoping to get to in order to compete against the best in the world. I’ve put in a lot of hours and hard work.
The VS Gaming Cup was my (seemingly) last shot at qualifying – but I was knocked out in the semi-finals. What most people don’t know, though, is that on the Saturday night (right before the VS Gaming finals) it was the ‘last chance qualifiers’ for the Global Series Playoffs, where you had to get 40-0 (40 wins and 0 losses) to even stand a chance to make it.
I played my heart out and made it 40-0, ending the Saturday night as #2 on the leaderboard. In order to qualify for Amsterdam, you had to be in the top 16. When the rankings updated on the Monday, I had just made it (finishing in 15th place). This was my first 40-0 ever, and it came at the perfect time.”
He’ll only be kicking off against players on his console of choice (the PS4), but among those will be 15 other FUT champions mixed in with a collection of FIFA eClub World Cup winners, official league qualifying competition winners, and licensed local competition winners from around the globe. All fighting for only 16 spots at the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final to be held in London this August.
Not only will the top 16 out of the 64 players at the Playoffs secure spots at the FIFA eWorld Cup later this year, they’ll also receive their shares of the $500,000 prize pools available for either console, with the best competitor on each console bagging a cool $35,000. No wonder Beast is stoked to be going.
What is FUT, exactly? It stands for FIFA Ultimate Team, a global online league where players can earn in-game currency by playing games; spend that currency to unlock random-draw player packs; and attempt to build their dream squad of players filled with stars like Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar and Salah (GLHF: If this were a wrestling game you would hope for players like Sergio Ramos.).
But you don’t just get to the top 16 FUT players in the world by mistake, or by playing casually against your mates every weekend. Growth of that scale requires dedication, commitment and diverse competition – which may be hard to come by if you’re only able to play against your fellow South Africans.
“I’ve played FUT since it started. I started at the bottom (GLHF: And now he’s here! Sorry. Actually, we’re not sorry.), I played often and worked really hard to keep improving. Even when I lost, I would learn from what I did wrong and try to improve my technique. Losing is never ideal, but when it does happen, I try and take it as a motivator to come back better and stronger than before.
Us South African players mostly play and practice online against each other (or against global competitors) and in small tournaments that are hosted across SA. Obviously the big one was VS Gaming Festival. In SA we don’t have as many tournaments or competitions like they have in Europe.
When we play weekend league or FUT, it’s not quite as big European servers or player bases. EU bases are likely the biggest. Here you might play against a guy three or four times in the same league. If you’re on a good run, you could land up playing some of the best opponents multiple times.
I’m really grateful today to be able to say that I can and will compete at an international level – it’s always been my dream and goal.”
A dream that was no doubt sparked by his early taste of the international footballing limelight (GLHF: The real life, boots on the pitch kind of football.), and fueled by the unwavering support of probably the best parents an aspiring gamer and/or footballer could ask for.
“I’ve never competed internationally for gaming before, but I travelled for football in 2010 when I played in a tournament in Norway and represented South Africa.
I was about 12 years old. It was a challenge for me as I was quite small (in physique) compared to the all of the foreign players. But I played to my strong points which was speed, skill and agility. I scored a hattrick in my first game. It put me at ease. I was so proud of myself. The experience was phenomenal and extraordinary. It was a dream of mine to play overseas and it is a memory and moment I’ll never forget.
My parents have always stood by my side and supported me – not only in gaming, but in all that I do. I played football from a young age, and they’ve always been my #1 supporters. I’m so grateful for them and their support.”
After scratching the international football itch at such a young age, Beast clearly decided he needed a bigger challenge: Trying to compete in global gaming competitions on a South African internet line.
“South Africans have been included previously, but we’ve had to work extra hard at it given our poor internet infrastructure. That said, I do feel it is possible to live in SA and compete internationally. A little improvement with regards to our internet would definitely help us a lot. I would really like to see a lot more opportunities for South Africans to compete on an international level – we definitely have the talent to do so.
The set up, quality and professionalism of international tournaments is always on another level. Just seeing it makes you want to compete. EA Sports just do it SO well (GLHF: That must be where all the lootbox money is going.). However, on a local level VS Gaming really stepped up this year with the VS Gaming Cup.
Gaming and FIFA in SA are growing immensely and I’m excited for the future. I absolutely see FIFA becoming a potential career for South Africans in the future. We have the talent and ability to compete internationally at the highest level, and if presented with the opportunity to compete at that level we will succeed.”
We’ve mentioned the VS Gaming Cup a few times throughout this article, so we guess it’s about time we explain to you why it’s such a big deal.
The VS Gaming Cup had a R1.5million prize pool, split down the middle for Xbox and PS. This placed it firmly on the global list of the largest FIFA 18 competition prize pools, coming in at the fourth largest in the world according to eSports Earnings. The winners on either console scored R400,000 each, also securing their places on the highest-paid FIFA 18 players in the world in a tie for eighth place.
Beast was knocked out in the semi-finals of the VS Gaming Cup, but will have a chance to redeem himself at the Global Series Playoffs – the winners of the VS Gaming Cup netted themselves spots at the Playoffs too, along with their heavier wallets.
It’s worth mentioning that the Xbox players who qualified through the VS Gaming Cup have been knocked out already, as their tournament ran over the last few days of May. With some of the best players in SA knocked out at the Xbox Playoffs, Beast must be itching to flex his footballing muscle at the PS4 Playoffs and prove that South Africa can compete on the global FIFA stage.
But at the heart of Beast’s drive to achieve is something a lot simpler: A love for football – electronic or otherwise.
“For me though, it’s not about FIFA – for me, it’s about football. Football is my absolute passion. FIFA just happens to be a great way to compete in football electronically.”
If you want to follow Beast’s performance as he fights the good fight in Amsterdam from the 1st to the 3rd of June, tune into the EA Sports Twitch stream, Youtube stream, and Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for all the latest updates.