It’s not often the club you support calls you up to represent them, but that’s exactly what happened for competitive FIFA player Mark Brijeski in January 2018.
The 20-year-old, who’s been playing FIFA since 2008 and is also known as xMarkoHD, was chuffed at the idea of representing the team he’s supported for quite some time.
“It was a pretty good feeling to be honest,” Brijeski said.
“When I first started [playing competitively], I knew that’s the level I wanted to get to.
“I’m really grateful that it’s happened, and just hope that I can push on and achieve some results and hopefully be able to go overseas and compete.”
Currently ranked as one of the best FIFA players in the country on PlayStation 4, Brijeski only started playing FIFA competitively when EA introduced the competitive FIFA Ultimate Team mode FUT Champions a couple of years ago, which has players compete for massive in-game rewards, battle for top rankings in global leaderboards, and qualify for EA-hosted tournaments around the world.
It didn’t take long for esports organisation Mindfreak to see the potential in Brijeski either, signing him on fairly early in his competitive career.
And Brijeski, who only recently ended his tenure with Mindfreak, spoke highly of his time with the organisation.
“It was really good… the owner of Mindfreak is an absolute legend,” he said.
“They were always there to help me whenever i needed gear or anything else.
“Most importantly they were there to support me no matter what and they really catapulted me to where I am now, so I’ll be forever grateful.”
Prior to FUT Champions, Brijeski said the competitive FIFA scene was relegated to online websites organising tournaments. Since the mode’s introduction, though, there’s been a noticeable boom in participants that he hopes continues to grow.
“We’re a good little community,” Brijeski said.
“It’s almost doubled or tripled because of FUT Champions, and it’s only going to get bigger.”
He also hopes more players get in on the action over the year, as it’ll help both the competitive community and the Australian FIFA scene.
Of course, the divide between Australian players and overseas players is still significant, and the only way for this gap to close is for more players to step up to the plate and help populate the competitive community, in turn allowing players to get better and adapt to different play styles.
Brijeski feels like more initiative needs to be taken in order to get Australian players over to the international events and playing against some of the best, as well.
“We have to try and compete with Europe and America.
“We don’t match with them on the weekend league, so the only way we’re gonna get better is if we got to events and verse them — it’s as simple as that.”
More local competition is the first step in helping that become a reality.
Brijeski also believes the e-League, which is set to kick off this week, is a major step forward for FIFA esports in Australia, also adding that he’d like to see clubs keep their players after the end of season one of the competition, and expand on it for season two.
“I really hope this e-League goes really well and they expand it for the entirety of next season.
“That’s what I hope, but it really depends on the backing and the support,” he said.
According to Brijeski the players that are included in the inaugural season of the e-League are of a noticeably high calibre, and he thinks it should make for a really good competition.
“There’s some really decent players there,” he said, “and at the end of the day anyone can perform on their day.
“Anyone can win any tournament and that’s how I see it, you just have to turn up.”
The reason for why Sydney FC chose Mark, he thinks, is because of his rankings at the time they were looking to bring in their first-choice competitor — right when he’d had a really good run on the leaderboards.
“Fortunately enough for me I did well that month and the previous month, and being from Sydney as well they just contacted me through the leaderboards and wanted me to represent them!”
Leading up to the e-League’s commencement, Brijeski said that he remains in contact with Sydney FC’s representatives fairly regularly, organising interviews and getting everything sorted for the competition.
Being one of the top ranked players in the competition, Brijeski is certainly one to watch throughout the comp’s nine weeks of competition. And he’s extremely excited for it all to kick off.
“A lot of people support me and a lot people have always supported me week in, week out.
“I’m going to bring my A game — I’m not going to go there and take everyone for granted, I’m going there to win.
“I want to lift the title at the end of the day.”
He hopes that if there is a second season of the competition, New Zealand-based players can have a crack at the competition, too.
“Obviously there’s a few [players] that missed out from New Zealand due to travel issues which would have been really good.
“I’d have loved to get FUTWIZ’s HoneyBadger over here and would have enjoyed versing him and seeing him… he’s a really good mate of mine as well.”
Whether the FFA work on a solution for the New Zealand players for a potential season two, we’ll have to wait and see.
The Juventus and Sydney FC fan will take on Melbourne City’s Josh Wood (joshingwood) in the first round of the competition, which kicks off on the 15th of February at 8pm AEDT.