Pepsi People’s Choice Award Winner Interview - Duane "DuaneMercieca" Mercieca

Thursday 16th June 2022, 08:22 | written by: Gabriel Sciberras

After an exciting and incredible season, there is only one last question to ponder - who was the best player of the season? While we know who the eventual winner is, the Pepsi People's Choice Award gave the public all the power to select a fan favourite - read on as we interview the winner below!

Pepsi People’s Choice Award - Quick Interview

Overall, the parameters for the award were rather simple. Powered by our partner Pepsi, who has also helped us offer the Group Stage Player of the Week awards, this award is one to rule them all. 

With voting opened straight after the Main Competition was concluded, the public was given 100% of the power to vote for their favourite player of the season based on the performances from the entire season - from Online Qualifiers to the Knockout Stage. 

Accordingly, with multiple candidates, the likes of Duane "DuaneMercieca" Mercieca earned the great majority of the votes - 40.5%! 

As the Group C Player of the Week winner, we've once again reached out to Duane to answer some questions as he reacts to this achievement: 

#1 – Congratulations on being voted for the Pepsi People’s Choice Award by the general public! Tell us, what’s your reaction to achieving a whopping 40.5% of the votes? Is there anything you’d like to say to those who voted for you?

Firstly, it feels amazing to be the Pepsi People's Choice - I'm honestly still processing this result. Moreover, I'd love to thank my girlfriend (who has been my number one supporter), my friends and family, the whole BOV ePremier League staff for providing the opportunity and of course, Gzira United FC who gave me the chance to represent such a prestigious club. 

#2 – Indeed, this award encompasses the entire season of play, since the beginning. Heading into this season of competition as a rookie, what motivated you to compete in the preliminary Online Qualifiers? Was there any particular goal in mind back then?

Overall, I have been playing Ultimate Team for a while now and the main reason why I participated in the Online Qualifiers is that it is something that my friends and I do every year.

The main goal back then was always reaching the Offline Qualifiers because it was always a fun experience meeting up at the stage of the Offline Qualifiers and competing against other FIFA players.

#3 – It’s in the second Online Qualifier that you managed to earn 3rd place and qualify for the Offline Qualifier. However, at the Offline Qualifier you barely managed to earn a Group Stage spot by placing 10th – how did you react to this? Moreso, how did you change your game and improve before heading into the Group Stage and Knockout Stage, where you evidently played better?

Specifically, I think the main difference between myself at the Offline qualifiers versus at the Main Competition is obviously the practice.

In the Offline Qualifiers, I felt that I was very unlucky, especially in my first loss as I was performing very well yet my opponent had a superior team when compared to mine and he managed to take advantage of this. Moving on to the main stage, I knew that I had to step up my game in order to obtain the best results possible.

Bearing this in mind, I would like to thank LukeBartolo99 of Sliema Wanderers, as he played a crucial role in my improvement as he introduced me to new ways as to how I could play against professional FIFA players and improve my game. This served as a huge bonus for me, as playing against these sorts of players, and getting to know their knowledge of the game, helped to improve both my defending and attacking skills.

#4 – Diving into the Main Competition as a dark horse, you managed to defy the odds and help Gzira United achieve its best placing ever – 3rd place. Getting there involved multiple close matches in the Winners’ Bracket. Tell us, how did you manage to keep your cool in these intense matches against veterans?

It’s a huge honour that I managed to achieve this result, both personally and for the club I represented. I personally think that the fact that I was always favoured to lose helped me to focus on myself mentally and to just play my game as if I had nothing to lose.

#5 – Accordingly, the only two competitors to beat you were the eventual Grand Final competitors, while Santa Lucia FC barely took the victory in the LB Final. After an incredible season, how does it feel to place in the top 3 players of the entire competition? Looking back at your performance in the Playoffs, is there anything you’d do differently?

In general, it’s funny because this campaign was literally a mental ladder for me and it just kept going up and up. When I managed to qualify for the Offline qualifiers - it was enough for me, yet, when I obtained 2nd place in what was said to be the "Group of Death”, I was obsessed with correcting my errors in the aim of doing my best in the Finals.

In conclusion,  I’m pleased with my performances but I know that I possibly had a Grand Final performance in my hand especially in the LB Final, if only I had a bit more patience and experience.

#6 – Overall, it’s rather an exception to see a rookie make such a deep run in their debut. Bearing this in mind, for all the rookies reading, is there any advice you have for competitors looking to make their debut and possibly compete next year? Is there any particular key to success?

Keep trying, keep finding ways to improve, and don’t be afraid to take yourself to the next level. Through the help of LukeBartolo99 as I mentioned earlier, I managed to talk and practice with several foreign, competitive, and professional FIFA players which helped me a lot to improve my gameplay.

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#7 – Speaking of next season, let’s discuss the future. Following this impressive season, do you have any particular plans for your future as a competitive FIFA player? Do you plan to return next year?

At the moment, there has been no indication whether I am directly seeded to next year’s Main Competition stage or not but yes, rest assured that I am planning on returning next year.

#8 – To conclude, let’s give the floor to you – what was it like to represent Gzira United for this season of the BOV Premier League? Is there anybody you’d like to thank for their support and motivation?

With regards to thanking those who support and motivate me, I'd like to refer to my answer to the first question and thank these people once again. 

Moreover, representing Gzira United isn't something completely new to me as I have represented their esports team in the pro clubs scene before. Truly, the club means a lot to me as it is my favourite club in Maltese football while I also have a lot of friends who live there. 

Furthermore, the people involved in the Gzira United committee have been so kind and supportive throughout the campaign and even their supporters were amazing enough to support me through social media too. Once again, I'd like to thank them for choosing me to represent them and hopefully, I'll have the privilege to represent them in next year's competition should I manage to qualify. 

Many predicted the youngster to walk away as the underdog, but not many thought he'd actually walk away with an impressive third-place performance. Considering this strong display of potential so early on, we're rather keen to see him develop should he compete in the upcoming season of the Malta BOV ePremier League. 

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