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The FIFA diaries – in Dubai with Goliath Gaming

Daily journal entries over 7 days

This week I find myself in Dubai. I’ve been lucky enough to visit LOTS of places, but this is my first time in the Middle East. It’s a new culture for me to explore. More importantly I’m doing something a bit different, I’m here to create content and document the journey of 3 FIFA players for South African organisation Goliath Gaming. I don’t really feel like repeating myself, so I’m going to share the Tweet I put out when I initially made the announcement about this – explaining why I’d be coming with to follow these players:

If you click on that tweet it is actually a thread sharing the various content I’ve made about the Goliath Gaming FIFA players over the last few years. So GG invited me to travel with them and go behind the camera for a change. I’m going to be vlogging this experience on my personal channels and then obviously creating content for GG, which I’ll be sharing on my social media. I thought I’d try something different here on the blog as well. I don’t think people realise what goes in to trips like this or the “behind the scenes” so I’m doing a daily journal to share with you. I’ll update this post each day with a new entry.

DAY 1 – 7 MARCH

We landed in Dubai at around 8am this morning. A surprisingly quick run through the giant airport, passport control and baggage collection. There was a good 40 minutes at the hotel sorting out check in and then having to try arrange internet connection. The guys had to set up Playstations and Screens for the bootcamp (they’re practicing for the next few days before competing on the weekend). There’s a slight language barrier and very clearly a block on some sites on the hotel connection (including anything relating to Playstation – which is problematic). While it is Saturday, that’s technically a Sunday for Dubai (their weekend is Friday and Saturday) so Michele, the team manager, is attempting to fix the problem and come up with a plan B and C. We had a quick shower and then headed to the Marina for a walk around and an orientation. It’s so incredibly hot here. After lunch we spent some more time attempting to sort out the internet, without much luck, before meeting with the CS team (who are spending their last few days here after competing in the ESL Asia Qualifiers) to do some tourist stuff. We caught three cabs to the Dubai Mall to check out the Burj Khalifa and the fountains. I’m not sure if you’ve ever travelled with 14 people all together but it was pretty hectic getting everyone in to taxis, to designated meeting spots and the like.

burj khalifa
This is a picture I took of Thabo, who was checking out the Burj Khalifa.

Spent much of our mall time trying to find a potential data solution for the internet woes, with no luck (it is extremely expensive to grab a 40GB data sim, it turns out). After a few hours and a sunset we headed back to the hotel. The teams decided to go out but I was feeling the effects of 4 hours sleep on a plane so had a quick dinner with Goliath Gaming’s Marketing and PR specialist, Gabbi, before a bath. I was in bed by 11pm, because I needed to load up content the next day.

DAY 2 – 8 MARCH

I woke up a 10am. Oops. Immediately jumped on my laptop to start getting content out. The FIFA guys still haven’t been able to set up and play. We’re now waiting for the hotel IT technician to arrive. This is starting to add a bit of stress to everyone. It was discussed and arranged with the hotel before arrival, so not being able to update games and get the guys playing is frustrating. There are other options, like catching taxis to a nearby gaming cafe each day, but getting the hotel internet sorted would be first prize. I spent way too much time editing photos. Photography is my weak point and I so desperately don’t want to let the GG team down, so I’m dedicating a fat amount of time to it. At about 3pm the internet was fixed and the Playstations could start updating. Huge relief all round. The players were starting to get stressed because of their weekend league games and I know the GG management were beyond stressed about having to implement Plan B, so the internet now working made us all breathe a little easier.

dubai yacht
This is a picture I took from the boat. Possibly one of my favourites that I’ve taken, so thought I’d share!

GG Management had arranged a trip for both the CS & FIFA players on a yacht around the Dubai Marina. Getting to the boat was a bit of a thing, we lost a player along the way, no one had data/wifi so there was no way to make sure he had stayed put. Some of us went off to the boat while Stickalish ran back to find Massacre. It made me realise how stressful these trips must be on the team managers, making sure you don’t lose someone along the way. The yacht trip was incredible but I’ll document a bit more of that in my vlog. I got back and had a quick dinner while chatting with the graphic designer (who is in South Africa) for some content we want to make. Spoiler… I fell asleep before he sent through the final designs. Oops!

Day 3 – 9 March

After the fight for internet yesterday, the guys stayed up most of the night playing their league games for the weekend, which meant they slept for most of the morning. This worked for me because I had a chance to edit footage and photos. I know it always looks glitz and glam, but most of today was spent behind a computer getting things tweaked and edited. I spent the afternoon with the players taking photos while they jammed. I actually have never really appreciated how difficult “esports photography” is. You need to compensate for light from the screens, movement and a bunch of other stuff. I took more than 30 photos and ended up with maybe 5 that I liked. I left the team at around 5/6pm and climbed straight into bed because I got hit with the worst toothache. Took forever to get to sleep because of the pain. Here’s one of my favourite shots from today:

Day 4 – 10 March

Toothache is less unbearable but still pretty painful. Sucking it up. Back to editing for most of the morning and then spent the afternoon with the FIFA team for media interviews and more photos. I try not take up too much of their day because the guys are trying to get as much practice time in as possible. Thabo stayed up till the early hours playing a host of players he’ll likely compete against this weekend. We did a bunch of interviews and then went out for a late lunch. Got back to my computer at 6pm only to realise that the light in the room where we did the interviews was scuffed and the footage is not nearly good enough. On camera it looked great but definitely not up to scratch for what I want to produce. We’ll have to reshoot tomorrow. Thabo also woke up feeling a bit under the weather, so the team manager had to head out to find him some medicine to help. The guys don’t leave their consoles, they’re working extremely hard to ensure they perform at the highest level on the weekend.

chicken wings
I’ve not even got round to editing photos from today, but did a quick touch up on this one because it makes me laugh. This was from lunch! I think Julio enjoyed the wings.

DAY 5 – 11 MARCH

Toothache is now reduced to sensitive tooth. Hallelujah! We had plans to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa today but because of the scuffed footage from yesterday we needed to stay in to film again. Thabo was also feeling a bit exhausted after a few nights of late playing, so we made the call to rather redo the video and stay in. The players got their media done and then went back to boot camping and playing.

Thabo Moloi
I rate this is probably the best photo I’ve ever taken so wanted to include it here.

While the team played FIFA I spent all of the the late afternoon till about 9pm editing video. We’ve got 3 videos up, all helping you get to know the players. I thought I’d share them here because I’m rather proud of them. Simple and short, but a great way to learn more about this incredible team of players:

Tomorrow is my last day here. I decided to leave the day before qualifiers to I wouldn’t be in the faces of the players while they compete, but now I’m regretting that decision. I don’t want to leave these guys. They’ve been some of the best players to work with and I’ve really enjoyed my time with them. I’m going to miss them.

DAY 6 – 12 MARCH

Final day in Dubai 🙁 I leave tomorrow at 4am in the morning. The team and I headed to the top of the Burj Khalifa today. What a mental experience and so awesome to share it with the team.

sam tech girl wright
Just hanging out at the top of the highest building in the world.

Had a good lunch together and then I edited some photos and got ready for bed. Wanted to get a few hours in before flying home. I made the call not to stay for the actual qualifiers but I’ll definitely be cheering from home. What an incredible team of players and what an incredible experience.

burj khalifa
The beast, on top of the world.

Thank you Goliath Gaming for letting me come along. Thabo and Julio – I’m going to be here shouting for you! 

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

As I’m typing this the team is the air on their way home. The last 72 hours have seen a lot of things happen that have left me so heart sore about this trip. Late on Friday night (qualifiers were meant to begin on Saturday), EA announced a halt on all their tournaments which included the eChampions League Qualifiers. This meant that Julio and Thabo would not be competing. They’d given up so much, worked so hard and it would mean that there would be no opportunity to compete for the ultimate prize at the end of it.

I was heart broken for them. To find out less than a few hours before you’re about to compete is heart breaking. Following on from that Corona virus restrictions became more intense and my heart break over the team not being able to qualify led to worry, as they still needed to return home. The team is on the plane now and should land soon. I’m waiting to hear that all is well.

I cannot put in to words how incredible Julio, Shiaan, Thabo and team manager Michele are. They are so driven, professional and humble. I urge anyone looking to “get” into local esports to ensure the first meeting you have is with this team. They truly are our South African esports stars of the future.

 

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