Sunday 03 March 2019, 17:10

Sanchez delighting in emotion-packed 2019

  • 'Sanchez' reflects on making his FIFA eSports breakthrough

  • Bulgarian shone at the eClub World Cup

  • Helped unfancied Futbolist reach semi-finals

“I’m a little bit emotional.”

Coming from Futbolist’s Sezer Sabriev, this is arguably the understatement of 2019 so far. Anyone on the competition floor for the recent FIFA eClub World Cup can testify to that, as it was impossible to ignore whenever the Turkish side were riding high.

The Bulgarian ‘Sanchez’ was principle among those celebrations, passion straining from every sinew as the underdogs ran all the way to the semi-finals.

“At the start of this FIFA season I signed with Futbolist, which is maybe the greatest thing that has happened in my career. I’m so happy that we’re a team,” Sanchez added, with the bond between them all eminently clear.

“It was a big honour to be there. There’s only 16 teams and it was a great honour to be among the top teams in the world.”

While they succumbed to eventual champions KiNG eSports, the boost to their FIFA 19 Global Series Rankings has transformed their FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final hopes, with ‘Sanchez’ and ‘isopower’ sat 24th and 27th in the world.

It would be a sensational end to the year after what has been a real whirlwind rise for the economics undergraduate student. “Last year I started playing a little more professionally,” he explained. “I had some great results in the Weekend League and thought ‘why can’t I be up there with these guys?’”

And having embraced this dream of being an eSports professional, finding his way onto the top stages in the sport has been a delightful, but all-consuming, journey. “This is the greatest thing you can do for a living. It’s a gift,” Sanchez beamed. “Some of my friends want to be in my place and I understand why. It’s great to earn a living playing FIFA.

“It has totally changed my life. I’m concentrating only on FIFA, you eat, you sleep, you play FIFA – there’s no way to get better at this game if you don’t play. It must be every day. It takes years, it takes so much work.”

However, the rewards have come since the turn of the year. Having had his successes and morale-boosting moments offline, January 2019 is when that feeling of being a FIFA pro really started to take hold when Sanchez booked his place at the Gfinity FIFA Series in London.

The satisfaction of making that transition to the global stage sees it sit right up there as one of his top FIFA highlights to date. “I had never qualified for an event before; it was a great feeling. If you just believe in yourself you can make it.”

While that journey ended earlier than he would have liked, the experience has been transformative, as was seen during the eClub World Cup. “When I was there the feeling was different, now I’m feeling confident, like I can beat anyone.”

But you won’t find Sanchez getting ahead of himself. Start coasting down the road to success and you can easily find yourself losing control, particularly in a field as competitive as FIFA 19’s. “It’s good to be on the top, but you mustn’t lie to yourself, you can go back to the bottom very fast. So I must keep my head.”