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Gamer Competes in International eSports Tournament

Ryan Manesh, Business Manager

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Junior Max Popov has the dream job of many: getting paid to play video games.

Popov is a professional esports player and has traveled all over the world to compete in FIFA tournaments and compe- titions. FIFA is a soccer simulation video game developed by Electronic Arts (EA) Sports. The game was first released as FIFA International Soccer back in January 1993 and was released most recently this year as FIFA 19. Over the years, FIFA has gained a strong following and fanbase, and is one of the best selling video game franchises of all time.

Popov has been playing soccer all his life, and it was one of the reasons he started playing the video game. “I started playing FIFA 13 about six years ago,” he said. “I’m a huge soccer guy; I love watching and playing soccer, and I also like gaming, so playing a soccer video game made a lot of sense.”

Initially, Popov never thought of making money through FIFA, but that all changed when he found that he was skilled at the game. “I probably realized I could go somewhere with FIFA around FIFA 15,” he said. “I was only 12, but it was nice competing with some of the best players in the world.” However, Popov couldn’t legally compete until he was 16, so this is the first year he is eligible to compete.

Despite not being of age to play, Popov competed in his first tournament about two years ago. “My first tournament was in 2017 for $10,000,” he said. “Unfortunately, I lost in the final. After losing, I was a little upset. Ten thousand dollars would be some good cash for a 14-year-old.”

Although he lost his first tournament, Popov held his head high and has since competed in many others. “I’ve also gone to London and Miami recently and will be going to Singapore and most likely Berlin over the summer,” Popov said.

Throughout his time competing professionally, Popov has formed many connections within the FIFA community. “I’ve made quite a bit of friends online and at these tournaments, some people that I’m close with and probably going to meet in Singapore really soon.”

At 16, Popov has already achieved a lot; for example, he has qualified for three events in his first year eligible to compete. “I had to be one of the top five players in the world to qualify for my events, so that was a pretty big deal for me,” he said.

To qualify for FIFA tournaments, players compete against the top 50 players from around the region. After that, players enter an eight-hour group stage, where half of the compet- itors make it through. “And then, you play the knockouts where you have to win two knockout games,” Popov said. “It’s usually in the last game to qualify when you’re playing somebody who’s extremely good, so it’s always intense and stressful.” Up until now, he has only competed against play- ers from North America, but the events that he qualified for will field players from all around the globe.

Popov does not think the FIFA franchise will end any time soon due to its longevity. “Particularly for FIFA, I think it has a big future because people love soccer,” he said. “Love for soccer is not going to die, which means that the video game about the sport is also not going to die.”

Popov is also sure that the esports scene will only grow. “I think that for sports games in general, there is a good future,” he said.

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Gamer Competes in International eSports Tournament