Job diary: I’m an esports soccer player who won $10,000

  • Ryan Pessoa is a 22-year-old professional esports gamer who plays FIFA 21 competitively for Manchester City.
  • He first signed with the team Hashtag United in 2018 after developing his gaming skills during his free time while studying business management at the University of Surrey in England.
  • Since then, Pessoa has won thousands of dollars playing esports, including $10,000 from the Twitch Rivals FIFA 21 tournament in October of this year, and sponsorships from brands like Red Bull.
  • Pessoa says he enjoys esports because it’s not divided by gender or physicality rules, so he’s proud to be part of an industry that’s inclusive and open.
  • This is his story, as told to freelance writer Mark Williams.
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I never used to think staying physically fit had much of an impact on my online gaming ability until I got injured and couldn’t go to the gym for six months. I’d get tired a lot more quickly and couldn’t concentrate for as long. When you compete at tournaments you could be playing for six or seven hours straight, so you have to keep your concentration levels high and perform at your best the whole time. There will be plenty of other people there who will be at the top of their game.

My mum thought the invitation to my first FIFA tournament was a scam.

Ryan Pessoa playing with a member of the public who attended the launch of the Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London.

Ryan Pessoa playing with a member of the public who attended the launch of the Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London.

Ryan Pessoa

I initially wanted to go into accountancy or financial advising, so I studied business management at Surrey University. Esports was never a thing I was actively trying to get into when I was younger. 

I’d always been sporty in school, and got into competitive FIFA by playing my friends on the weekends, regularly beating them, and looking for more competition. I’ve been a huge gamer for as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved playing games.

During my first year at university I had a lot of spare time, especially on the weekends, so I started playing the Weekend League on FIFA 17. You had to play 40 games a weekend for a month and you could only afford to lose one or two games out of 160 if you wanted to be in the top five in Europe and make the qualifiers, which is what I did.

Even when I won entry to the qualifiers in Munich in July 2017, I didn’t think this was something I could do professionally. I didn’t know esports was a thing you could make a living from. I had competed in some small tournaments with prize money, but it was usually never more than around £50 for a win. I had no idea there was the FIFA eWorld Cup with major prize money involved and professional gamers who were signed by Premier League teams.

The Munich event was due to take place a month after I qualified but my mum…

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