Wendell Lira: I want to reach the next Grand Final

  • Wendell Lira explains his move from pro footballer to pro FIFA player

  • He has coached former UFC champion Jose Aldo and Lucas Paqueta

  • Wendell is eager to reach the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final next year

Abdulaziz Alshehri felt like Mike Tyson during his devastating vertex. The then FIFA eWorld Cup champion challenged Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo to a game of FIFA at the Kongresshaus in Zurich in 2016. All declined.

Alshehri would regret extending that invitation to Wendell Lira, who had pipped Messi to the FIFA Puskás Award. Playing as Real Madrid against Barcelona, the Brazilian didn’t just beat the Saudi Arabian, but battered him.

“I’d played FIFA before, but at the FIFA awards I was challenged to a match against the world champion,” explained Wendell. “I ended up winning 6-1 and this had a huge impact on me.

“It made me think that I could became a gamer, a YouTuber, that I could do this for work. I’ve been doing it for the last three years.”

The 30-year-old, indeed, has built up a sizeable subscribership posting FIFA videos on his YouTube channel, WLPSKS – short for Wendell Lira Puskás – and big followings on Instagram and Twitter.

“My life has changed so much,” he explained. “I’ve become really well-known as a gamer. Sometimes when I go places and people recognise me, I simply can’t believe it.

“Jose Aldo, the former UFC champion, came to me asking for some coaching. I couldn’t believe it! Footballers also come to me a lot to learn: [Lucas] Paqueta, Gustavo Henrique of Santos, Bruno Henrique of Flamengo, Taison of Shakhtar. It’s amazing.”

Competitive FIFA is certainly on the up in Brazil. “It’s the first time in history we’ve had so many Brazilians at the eWorld Cup,” said Wendell. “We’re very happy.

“I think Pedro Resende had the best chance of winning it. I train with him, play against him, and he’s extremely talented. I know he can win the competition in the future.

“But Brazil deserve congratulations for having five participants. I hope there’ll be six, seven, eight of us next year.”

‘Resende’ finished on 11 points from seven matches in Group A, along with tournament favourite ‘Tekkz’, which was agonisingly shy of seeing them into the knockout phase.

“’Tekkz’ is one of the best in the world,” said Wendell. “He went out early at the eWorld Cup, but over the whole year he was morally the world champion. He won many tournaments. He has all the potential to became [FIFA eWorld Cup] champion.

'MoAuba’ was a deserving champion. He’s been around the world championships for years. He’s been competing in big tournaments, winning some. He’s a great player. People who know him – we have friends in common – say he’s very humble, a really good guy.

“He was dominated by ‘Tekkz’, but he demonstrated over the course of the year that he has a lot of ability and that he’s a great champion.”

As well as pocketing the $250,000 first prize, ‘MoAuba’ won a trip to The Best FIFA Football Awards in Milan in September. “That will mean even more to him than the money,” said Wendell. “He’ll get to mix with the stars, take photos.

“It’s a unique experience. It was a dream, a fantasy that came true for me. He’ll enjoy it so much. He’ll be wowed by everything that happens there.”

On a personal level, Wendell endured a disappointing campaign, but has big targets for 2019/20. “I had a very difficult year,” he admitted. “I had difficulty in finding a way to play. But from now, I’m going to dedicate myself to FIFA, build my life around it.

“I have big targets for next season. I’m going to practise a lot. I’ve got a fixed schedule to practise for five, six hours per day. I’m going to dedicate myself to FIFA fulltime.

“I want to be at the Grand Final of the FIFA eWorld Cup in 2020. Dedication makes all the difference.”