Hashtag Ryan: Part eSports athlete, part scholar

  • Hashtag Ryan explains his eSports origins

  • eClub World Cup quarter-finalist juggles a degree with FIFA

  • Intends to “do some damage” next season after graduating

With any sports professional, what we see when they compete is only a small fraction of their life. While much of their time is geared towards performing at their best in those moments, there can be plenty going on behind the scenes that conflicts with those sporting goals.

When it comes to Ryan Pessoa – better known as Hashtag Ryan – it’s the toughest year of his educational life competing with his current standing as the world's 18th best FIFA 19 player on Xbox.

Having just turned 21, how is he managing that balance between eSports glory and laying down the foundations of a future career as a financial adviser? “It’s the million-dollar question,” he admitted to FIFA.com. “It’s really difficult, particularly because I’m in my last year now and exams sometimes clash or are really close to qualifying months.

“For instance, I had an event in Bucharest and the day I came back I had an assignment that was due and an exam that same day. My mind is always teetering between studying or practicing.”

But with completing his degree and graduation on the horizon, that is certainly not a sign that the Hashtag United man is playing to hang up his controller and divert his career path away from eSports. Far from it. “Playing Xbox was originally a hobby and I’ve been given the opportunity to turn my hobby into a profession.

“I want to continue playing FIFA and competing at the highest level for as long as possible and I think I have the ability to do so. Hopefully next year when my mind’s completely on FIFA I can do some damage.”

He has every right to expect big things of himself. A former world No1 on FIFA 18, he stumbled into the competitive world having been playing casually for “I’ve no idea how long”, stepping right in at the very top.

“I never even knew [competitive FIFA] existed,” the Arsenal fan explained. “There was a qualifying month where you had to finish top five in the world and I finished fifth to qualify for an event in Munich.”

While having been imperious under his own roof, the sudden realisation he was a world class player took the well-spoken North Londoner by surprise. “I’ve always been playing FIFA and none of my friends could beat me for years, I think the last time was FIFA 13 or 14, so they haven’t beaten me in a long time.

“I always used to destroy them. I played a few pros in weekend league and beat them, but I never really thought anything of it until I qualified [for Munich].”

Even when he arrived, it was with the most modest of intentions. "I went into that tournament knowing nobody, not expecting anything and literally told all the other competitors all I wanted to do was score a goal.

“I knew they’d all been in this league for a long time so I didn’t expect too much, but I ended up just winning it, so it was amazing. I then went on to the Grand Finals in London in 2017.”

“Here I am today, two years on and still competing. eSports has changed my life dramatically.”

Since then he’s gotten a pair of appearances at the FIFA eClub World Cup under his belt, the latest seeing him on loan at Manchester City, and impressed at the FUT Champions Cup in Barcelona last year – reaching the quarter-finals in all three. The Grand Final playoffs later in the year look a certainty, too.

Having effectively competed with one arm tied behind his back throughout his entire FIFA career, thanks to having his degree to worry about, who knows what new levels Ryan will find when the FIFA 20 season comes around.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 10:    Team Manchester City  Ryan Pessoa (C)  and Shaun Springette and Team Futbolist 
 Sezer Sabriev and Ismail Can Yerinde (R) walk out during the FIFA eClub World Cup 2019 - Knockout Stage & Final on February 10, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)