If you talk to Julio Bianchi he seems like every other young South African who enjoys playing FIFA in their spare time, but things are starting to change quite rapidly for the Cape Town native.

From recently competing at the FIFA eWorld Cup qualifiers, the Goliath Gaming esports athlete has his sights set on making a real name for himself on the global stage. Oh, there’s also the small matter of his studies to contend with, as Bianchi is currently an Accounting student at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

So how does Bianchi balance the two? We recently caught up with him to find out.

Hypertext: When did playing FIFA become a passion for you?

Julio Bianchi (JB): I’ve played football since I was six, and it lead me into being really passionate about the sport, as well as playing it on the virtual side too. I enjoyed being able to play the game like I do on the pitch.

It also exposed me to various tactics and strategies to play with in the game, and made me love football even more.

When I started to beat my friends more convincingly and consistently, I realised I was improving, and my friends no longer wanted to play against me – that’s when I knew it was time to take it to the next level, competitively.

Hypertext: You recently represented South Africa on the international FIFA scene. What was that like?

JB: It was absolutely fantastic. Once in a lifetime experience for me.

I was simply at a loss for words, being able to walk among some of the best players in the world and to count myself among them was truly amazing. It felt like some of the hard work had paid off and I was able to perform for my team, Goliath Gaming, and make them, my family and friends proud.

While there I was able to beat 2x World Champion, “The Danish King” – Agge Rosenmeier, which was a huge accomplishment for me, but ultimately I finished among the Top 64 players in the world, and I hope I can return sometime in the future and perhaps do even better next time.

Hypertext: What motivates you when competing. Is prize money something you think about?

JB: Obviously as a student, extra money can me with fees and things like that, but that’s not the real reason why I am here.

My passion for football and gaming is why I am. I know there is the potential of having a career in gaming, and this something I chose to pursue and why I signed to Goliath Gaming. They’ve been absolutely amazing as an MGO (multi-gaming organisation).

Yes, the prize money is a bonus, but I keep telling my friends and interested people that they should not get into this just for the money. They should get into it because it is their passion, and that’s when you will get the rewards – if you work hard.

Hypertext: Speaking of being a student, how do balance that life with being a pro gamer?

JB: The answer is in the question – it’s all about balance and knowing yourself, especially your strengths and weaknesses.

If I feel like I am not coping with studies or slacking, I just dedicate more time to it. It comes down to having a well planned schedule, and making sure that you have enough time to do both – without feeling overwhelmed.

With gaming and studies, it’s about being self aware and knowing what you can do and what you need to do.

Hypertext: Being a student, how important is it to have a backup plan, should pro gaming not work out?

JB: To be honest, pro gaming has never been my primary focus or plan. It has always been in education, and that’s why I am studying accounting. I actually wanted to be a pro footballer and that did not work out so that is why I have decided to fully commit to my studies.

Gaming is a path that I am taking seriously alongside my studies, and it allows me to keep my passion for football alive. But, accounting is my number one priority, with gaming following that.

Hypertext: Speaking with your gamer hat on now, what do you think needs to change on the local esports scene?

JB: We need a lot more professional practice, and more tournaments on a professional level. We need to somehow get better connected to the international pro scene.

It doesn’t really help us to just play amongst ourselves in SA, and when the best player tries to compete internationally, they fall short because they aren’t exposed to that level locally.

Connectivity also plays a huge role as it’s difficult to play from South Africa and actually compete against the rest of the world. In Europe, the infrastructure and connectivity combined with the larger and more experienced player pool allows for a truly competitive environment.

Hopefully we get more tournaments in South Africa where players have more opportunities to test themselves and show their skill and learn from best.

Hypertext: You’ve mentioned more competitions, are there any local ones that budding FIFA gamers should be aware of?

JB: There’s a big tournament, the VS Gaming Festival, which usually takes place in May each year (TBC in 2019), which is the biggest in SA. Anybody that is into football or FIFA should likely enter this tournament. We also have another event coming up in Cape Town with ACGL, and normally big gaming expo’s like rAge and RUSH will feature FIFA tournaments.

Hypertext: Lastly, are there any goals you have in mind for the near future?

JB: Ever since I qualified for the FIFA eWorld Cup Global Series Playoffs in Amsterdam last year, my only goal has been to qualify for it again and to improve on my previous performance.

By that I mean not only qualifying, but causing another upset, and trying to win the whole competition, which could put a spotlight on the South African FIFA gaming scene.

Locally, I would obviously like to win the VS Gaming FIFA festival. Hopefully I can succeed in doing so.