"You can do anything you set your mind to" - Joseph "Joey" Calabro's Life as a rising esport star
30th minute at the FIWC 2017 Grand Final Xbox Quarter-Final - 2nd leg:
It's still a close game between one of the big contenders Spencer "Gorilla" Ealing and the american underdog Joseph "Joey" Calabro.
After Joey's loss in the first leg (3:4), he leads the second match 1:0 and keeps his dream alive to make it to the Division Semi-Final. After a throw-in by Gorilla, Joey made a mistake and Gorilla had no issues to score. 1:1. Aggreggated 5:4. The momentum changes and Gorilla wins the match and goes onto the next round. The rest of story is well-known: Gorilla went on to the Division Final and after being named Xbox Division Champion he was able to secure the title as the 2017 FIFA Interactive World Champion in the Final Showdown.
We had the chance to speak with Joey and listen to his story, and journey to the FIWC 2017 Grand Final:
The esports company: 1. How did you become a professional FIFA player? And what did you do before or/and what else do you do at the moment?
Joey: I became a professional FIFA player by playing the game so much and posting my results to twitter, whether it was the weekend league or Gfinity. I randomly checked my e-mail one day and Epsilon had contacted me. Twitter helped with that. I still work, I do IT work at a huge food distribution company called Carmela Foods. I hope to soon stop and play FIFA full time.
2. Were your friends and family accepting of your career choice?
Surprisingly, they were accepting of my career choice. They get into it almost like I do. It makes me feel better about doing it.
3. Who has been your biggest supporter throughout your time playing FIFA?
I’d have to say my biggest supporter is either my mother, or Sylwester. (Editor's note: His best friend Sylwester, who supported him throughout the year and on-site at the Grand Final)
4. What was the most challenging part of qualifying for the Grand Final for you?
The most challenging part of qualifying for the Grand Finals honestly was the whole process. Nothing was easy. From playing 160 games, qualifying online to the LA Regionals. It was all a mission, A very fun and tough one.
5. You were so close to beating Gorilla in the Division Quarter Final, what do you think made the difference?
The thing that made the difference the most was whenever I tied it back to 4-4, I made a huge mistake and basically handed him a goal. It was completely my fault. If I hadn’t done that, who knows what would’ve happened. I hate that I went out like that.
6. What have you learned that you can take on board next year?
I’ve learned a lot of things. Main thing is that Americans CAN compete. We’ve shown that I believe. Also to never give up. It is FIFA, anything can happen in any amount of time. Also to be mentally strong, especially at LAN as when others are nervous, if you are not nervous, you have a big advantage.
7. Do you have any advise for young fans who are now looking up to you as a role model?
My advice for young fans is to follow your dreams. You can do anything you set your mind to. You just can’t be lazy with it. The work that is required must be done. It will all pay off.
8. How long do you see yourself being able to keep this as a career?
If the scene and FIFA eSports grows in general, I’d like to think I have at least 10 years left. I’m 23 now.
9. How much of your life does being a professional FIFA player really take up?
It doesn’t allow me to have much of a social life, considering I work full time then when I’m home I’m working playing FIFA. Especially on the weekends. It is my passion and I don’t mind. I love it.
10. How was the journey to the FIWC Grand Final? How was it to participate in L.A. and to travel to London just a few weeks later?
The whole journey altogether was one of the best experiences of my life. It was amazing to travel and to meet everybody that I did on the road to London. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I do hope there are many more to come.
11. Did you ever believe FIFA esport would be such a big thing? (For you personally and in general)
Honestly, I did not. I had said multiple times I stopped for years because I only enjoyed to play competitively and it wasn’t like that here in the USA. Once I heard about it being taken seriously, I dove right in. I am extremely happy it’s where it’s at now, and only hope it continues to grow.
12.What is your forecast for the next year’s on FIFA esport?
My forecast is that it will be even larger then it was this year. You see actual football clubs getting involved, they must see the potential as well. For the first year it’s done phenomenal, and I truly believe it will double down this upcoming year.
13.What do you have to say to critics of professional esport? What could be improved?
All I can say to the critics is they truly don’t know how much work us players have to put in, and how much time we have to dedicate to do what we do. Only thing I ask is to take it easy on us in that part of it. Like it or not, this is a job for many nowadays and that’s what it is.
14.What are your plans for the FIWC18 / FIFA 18?
My plans for FIFA18/FIWC18 are the exact same as they were this year, except to do better and hopefully become a world champion. I will put in more time and effort to get the job done. I’m a very determined individual and the competitive side of me hates to lose. I will put in the hours and get the results.
15.What are your plans in general? Any specific goals for the next few months or years?
I don’t have a stone solid plan yet. A specific goal for me is to get signed by a football club this year. That’s my dream. It’d also allow me to quit my full time job and focus on FIFA full time.
Thank you very much for this interview Joey!
Photocredits: FIWC / FIFA