- “I’ll be announcing what’s next in my career very soon.”
- From Asia and the Middle East’s first-ever champion to a FIFA eSports icon
- Alshehri discusses where it all began, the Saudi Arabian eSports community and his future
Abdulaziz Alshehri won what was then the FIFA Interactive World Cup Grand Final in Munich back in 2015. In the wake of his victory he was the face of the FIFA eSports scene, particularly in Saudi Arabia. We caught up with Alshehri to discuss how the sport has changed, its latest Saudi champion and much more besides.
FIFA.com: How did you get into FIFA eSports?
Abdulaziz Alshehri: In 2009 my brother bought the latest edition of EA Sports FIFA. I didn’t like it at all at first, but after three weeks I was playing more and more. That was the start of it all.
What was your first event?
I qualified for the Grand Final in Dubai back in 2012 and finished among the top five players. It was a fantastic tournament and I really enjoyed the experience.
You now represent FIFA eSports at other events too…
That’s right. This year I had the chance to be part of an eSports presentation at Gamescom. It was amazing to meet so many people there and spend so much time speaking to the media. For me, eSports isn’t just about how you play but about sharing the experience too. It’s definitely more than just a video game.
Will you be back battling for titles again next year?
I’m currently focusing on representing the game in the Middle East, but I’ll be announcing what’s next in my career very soon.
Do you have any tips for anyone who wants to play FIFA professionally?
The most important thing is dedication – giving up your time to play the game and fully committing to it. You’ve got to be confident in your ability because it’s a mental game. It’s also important to stay fit and healthy, as that has an effect on your performance.
What do you find most interesting about FIFA eSports?
Competing at such a high level, interacting with the media and the number of people who watch us play. So many people watch FIFA eSports and everything you do is noticed by the entire community.
You won in Munich in 2015. How did it feel to become world champion?
Becoming the first player from Asia and the Middle East to win the title was something special. We often had players in the Grand Final, so I asked myself why we weren’t able to win the tournament too. I started playing against the world’s best players and went into the event full of confidence.
What was the most memorable moment for you?
It was the quarter-finals. I was playing with Portugal as usual – and then Cristiano Ronaldo got a red card. At first all I could do was laugh, and then I asked my coach: “What now?” He said I should make a substitution, and the player I brought on ended up scoring the winning goal.
What do you think about the 2018 FIFA eWorld Cup champion 'Msdossary'? Can he repeat his success?
Absolutely! He was definitely the best player this year. We have so much talent in Saudi Arabia, but he stands out and has what it takes to win time and time again.
What makes the scene in Saudi Arabia so special?
The game is very well known in our country; we love it and enjoy playing it. As we haven’t won many titles over the last few years, we’ve all been supporting each other.
How has the scene changed over the last few years?
eSports were still very obscure three years ago. Now there are government officials responsible for eSports and we receive support when we travel to tournaments, for example. We’ve also got a lot of good players in our country.
Who would you say were your ‘rivals’ or strongest opponents in 2015?
Without a doubt the best competitor I played against was August Rosenmeier. He was so strong in 2015 and I would have loved to play against him in the Final Showdown – it certainly would have been an interesting match. He’s a good friend of mine and I’ve got so much respect for him.
Who would you class as FIFA eSports legends?
It’s about personalities rather than trophies. As well as Rosenmeier, there’s Bruce Grannec too. Both of them are absolute legends of the scene.
Is there a player that you believe could become a new star in 2019?
There are so many good players from my country, but one who could become a superstar if he keeps training is Abdulrahman Bonabil. He could reach a very high level next year.