FATIMA VELARDE / AIPS —- 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.

MoAuba said: “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.”

MoAuba . . . the smile of a champion

The champion was speaking as a special guest of the AIPS e-College alongside Will Shand (FIFA media relations manager), Manuel Ezberci (FIFA eFootball competitions and events manager) and commentator Brandon Smith.

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.

Top competitors

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 $500,000, of which MoAuba won $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.”

Ezberci added: “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.”

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 eight. He loved to watch and play football and started playing on the console with his older brother, who was much better than him.

Prize money

He recalled: “That’s why I became so good. 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 to win a PlayStation 4; I beat some pros and I won the console, it was not money. But I didn’t know that you can become a champion, like this.”

MoAuba was then 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 – €2000 – then he started to play in teams that could only cover the cost for his trips and T-shirts.

MoAuba added: “The first three years I played for a big eSport team, but they didn’t have money for FIFA. 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.”

His grandparents did not understand what he was doing. He said: “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.”

Top sponsors

From there, MoAuba won five German championships and today he works as a professional player for Fokus Clan, a team that is sponsored by major brands such as 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.

To reach that level, MoAuba considered a key factor to be mental preparation, because the game is very fast and several matches are played in one day. Anyone who wants to be a professional does not need to play eight hours a day but they do need to know football.

Just as the world’s top footballers want to learn from him.