Germany's best FIFA players have been selected to represent their country at the first FIFA eNations Cup in London. Michael "MegaBit" Bittner and Mohammed "MoAuba" Harkous both compete domestically for Werder Bremen.
DW: What is your current state of preparation for London? Have you even had time to draw breath since winning the German title? How much time do you spend training and how much do you train together?
MoAuba: We don't actually have a training schedule at the moment because we've been competing in so many tournaments – about one a week. This means that we're always preparing for the next tournament. Of course, we also had a training camp with our coach and some other national players this week to specifically prepare for the FIFA eNations Cup. We trained almost exclusively two-on-two during that time because, prior to that, we had hardly played together at all.
MegaBit: It makes sense for us to train together ahead of the eNations Cup – especially because the two-on-two mode isn't all that common at FIFA tournaments. We don't train together as much one-on-one because we play on different consoles, we train instead against other international professionals. All of the tournaments last year were one-on-one tournaments, so we're actually already about as prepared as we can be there. And last week's training camp kicked off last week with the Foot Champions Cup in London, where we performed well. Having also trained two-on-two, we have a good feeling heading into the eNations Cup.
What kind of support does the German Football Association (DFB) give you? Is it like with football players, with a completely different group getting together for the national team than your club team? Or are things not as clearly separated between club and country in eSports?
MegaBit: In eSports the teams are simply much smaller. At Werder, for example, there is one person on staff who is responsible for the eSports team. At the DFB, a total of four people are currently involved. You can't compare that with the national team in football. We don't yet have our own club or national team coach, for example. Things are still developing, it's all still in its infancy. I think in a few years' time teams will be bigger and there will be more parallels to the structures in football.
Do they play the national anthem before international eSports events?
MoAuba: We don't know that yet. But I think they will – probably only on the second day, when the group stage is over and there are fewer teams.
MegaBit: Since several group stage games will be played in parallel on Saturday, I can't imagine them playing national anthems then. Before the tournament the individual teams will be introduced, but playing each individual anthem would take too long. As Mo said, I can imagine that this being done on Sunday during the knockout stages.
Apart from your own sporting goals: As FIFA eSports pioneers, do you also feel like you are on a mission for more attention and acceptance for your sport?
MoAuba: We are often asked about our role in eSports, but first and foremost we just do our thing. I think the acceptance is increasing, but it's not our stated goal to work towards it.
MegaBit: Ideally, it's a mixture of both. During the tournaments, we are focused exclusively on ourselves and our performance, but at the same time, of course, when we represent Germany, we also act as role models and pioneers for eSports.
How do you see your chances in London? Do you expect to compete for the title or will you enter the tournament without any expectations or goals?
MoAuba: Our expectation for ourselves is first and foremost that we perform at our best. We also know that even if you perform at your best, you can also lose due to bad luck. But it's also clear that if we perform at our best in two-on-two, we can go a long way. But you always need a bit of luck, of course.
MegaBit: As Mo said, we are setting our sights on the title. But we will have to perform at our best from round to round, just like in football. With all of the elite players who will be in London, if your performance is only 99 percent of your best, you could go out in the first round. That's why we focus on one round at a time, but never on the whole tournament.
Mohammed "MoAuba" Harkous (22) will represent Germany on Playstation and Michael "MegaBit" Bittner (20) on Xbox. The pair won the first German club championship with Werder Bremen at the beginning of March and will play together at the FIFA eNations Cup in London on computer game FIFA 19 this weekend. This is the first time a German national team has competed in the sport.
The interview was conducted by David Vorholt