Being the favourite is never easy. Indeed, everyone, including your competitors and the community is constantly watching your every move and expecting you to prevail. While many crumble at the hint of this pressure, it did nothing to dissuade Luke "LukeBartolo99" Bartolo from becoming this season's BOV ePremier League Champion! Read on as we interview the winner!
BoV ePremier League 2021/22 Champion Interview - Rookies Take Notes
For those unaware, the Knockout Stage concluded this past weekend, as the final stage of the entire season of competition. Accordingly, we'll be breaking down all the actions in an in-depth recap. However, for the time being, we sat down with FIFA phenomenon Luke "LukeBartolo99" Bartolo to gain some insights regarding his approach to the competition, his mentality, and future prospects.
#1 – Congratulations on becoming the champion for the BOV ePremier League 2021/22 season! Indeed, having competed in all three seasons so far, and placing second last year, how does this win feel and compare to your previous performances in the league?
Thanks! The win feels amazing.
Winning here involved overcoming a mental hurdle after having lost the previous season against the same team on penalties. However, I was confident because I held the Winners Bracket seed, and I know how important it is if you want to go all the way.
In comparison, the feeling between this year and previous years is night and day. Although last year, I was not so disappointed as one would think as back then, the Top 2 players earned Play-In spots and not the one Playoff seed available this year.
#2 – Pressure is something that can affect a player’s game, especially rookies on the Main Stage. Heading into this event, many predicted that you, representing Sliema Wanderers, would come out on top and win the entire thing. Tell us, how did you handle the pressure from these expectations? Did you change your playstyle in any way? What is the secret to playing at the highest level of competitive FIFA?
Overall, I think I learned how to handle pressure better from experience - there is no secret apart from being in the same sitaution before and knowing what to do.
Furthermore, I did change my playstyle a bit as I knew my opponents would most likely sit deep in their defence and play very cautiously against me. Considering this, I held the ball and as I predicted, my opponents very rarely attempted to pressure me. Accordingly, this gave me total control of every game I played and allowed me to stay undefeated.
Honestly, there is no secret to play at a high level. Something that is huge in competitive FIFA and maybe not in other games, is being able to adapt to any conditions/playstyle and play accordingly.
#3 – Let’s talk about your specific performances at the Knockout Stage. Firstly, in the Winners’ Final you matched up against Gzira United’s Duane “DuaneMercieca” Mercieca – a player who managed to keep things tied with you when you matched up in Group C. Bearing this in mind, how did you prepare heading into this match? What approach allowed you to net three goals past the rookie in the second leg after a goalless first leg?
Of note, Duane was actually my practice partner heading into the Main Competition and we played many games against each other prior to the Knockout Phase.
Considering this, I did not prepare any differently. Instead, I just played my game and implemented my plan.
For my standards, I know I played very poorly in that game in the Group Stage, being my only draw, so I knew I would have a better time around if I faced him later in the competition.
During the Winners' Bracket match, I "felt him out" in the first leg to see where his weakness lied. Once I found it I exploited it and after he went down two goals he had to come out and pressure me, resulting in an easy third goal.
#4 – And then, there’s the Grand Final. Facing off against the other favourite, Gianluca “Turbulense” Sant, the question here is obvious – what were your thoughts heading into this game? How did you manage to fend off Santa Lucia FC in the second leg? Was this the toughest game of the tournament for you?
Heading into this game my thoughts were that this Grand Final was what I was expecting and prepared for, so I was not nervous as I had mentally prepared for it long before the game.
When I envisioned how the Knockout Stage would unfold, I predicted to meet Santa Lucia FC in the Winners' Semis and then again in the grand final. Of course, that was not exactly what happened but the end result was still the same. Throughout the event, I wanted to make sure to hold the Winners' Bracket seed all the way as I knew it would be huge in the grand final.
Having the Winners' Bracket gave me some extra confidence, but I did not want to risk a reset since I knew Turbulense's coach Christian would catch on to what I was doing and counter me as he eventually did in the 2nd leg.
Bearing this in mind, the 2nd leg was tough. I should have won more than 2-0 in the first leg and I knew it would come back to bite me, as they say. Indeed it did, as Turbulense completely adjusted his playstyle and formation to counter me and he came back 2-2, forcing extra time.
At that point in time, I was speaking with my coach Brandsha as to whether I should switch formation because I was at a huge disadvantage in the middle, or stick to the formation which got me to the Grand Final and I was very comfortable in. Together, we decided to stick to the formation as in the high-pressure situations its better to stick with what you are comfortable with.
Correspondingly, Turbluense overloaded the middle but had his wings exposed so I constantly attacked his wings and it paid off as he made a mistake and I took full advantage, scoring in extra time to win it. The 2nd leg was definitely the toughest game of the tournament for me.
#5 – Most recently, you actually competed at the FIFAe Nations Series – an international competitive FIFA competition and have earned a seed for the FIFAe Nations World Cup Playoffs together with your teammates. Accordingly, how does the level of competition locally compare to the international competition you’ve experienced?
For context, the competitions are a different format as the FIFAe Nations is 2v2 and the Malta BOV ePremier League is 1v1. Naturally, the level of competition when facing national teams is always going to be higher as it's practically the best players from each nation.
For comparison, I would say that the level in local competitions in Malta is really high when considering everything. Overall, FIFA is by far the most popular game in Malta and it shows with the level of play that we have. Specifically, if I had to compare the level I would say the local competition is just a tad below the big leagues (England, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal), which is awesome to say.
#6 – Bearing this in mind, this win nets you a direct qualification to the FIFAe World Cup Playoffs in London. How are you feeling heading into this international event? What are your hopes and aspirations with regards to your future competitive FIFA 22 career?
In general, I am feeling good. I know what I have to do and I make sure to practice and improve every day. My hopes and aspirations are pretty clear. My initial goal was to make both Playoffs which I achieved. Now my goal is to make it to both World Cups - the FIFAe World Cup and the FIFAe Nations World Cup
#7 – To conclude, feel free to take a moment to say anything you’d like to your supporters and fans out there. Also, feel free to describe what it’s like to compete in the BOV ePremier League and to represent Sliema Wanderers for two years in a row.
On the whole, I would like to thank everyone who made a sacrifice however small for me to get me to where I am today, this trophy is also yours. A special mention goes to my family and my coach/teammate/bestfriend Brandsha and also my supporters encouraging me on social media or by word of mouth - this trophy is for you too.
Competing in the BOV ePremier League is an incredible experience and every year it keeps getting better and bigger. I can't wait for what they come up with next year!
In addition, I'd like to thank Sliema Wanderers FC for having me for the 2nd year in a row and I hope this trophy is a form of consolation for becoming relegated. Unfortunately, due to this I will not be representing Sliema for sure next year, but I hope they can manage promotion and we will see them back in the BOV ePremier League soon.
What a phenomenal interview with the champion! Taking as much detail in each response as he does in his particular approach to competitive FIFA 22, these comments are a special treat for any rookies out there climbing the competitive ladder and still new to the scene.
We can't wait to see where his career takes him - both locally and internationally!
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