This generation have grown up on FIFA

6 superstars that grew up as obsessed with playing FIFA: Endrick, Messi…

Football and video games have been intertwined for decades now, so it’s no surprise to see Brazilian superstar Endrick cite FIFA as one of his favourite hobbies growing up.

Ask any football obsessive under the age of 35 and there’s a very good chance that they spent their childhood and teenage years playing FIFA or Pro Evo, from multiplayer in 90s bedrooms on the original PlayStation to Gen Z and Gen Alpha today, spending hours online and collecting players on Ultimate Team.

Not every footballer loves football, but most do – so it should be no surprise that several of the sport’s biggest superstars spent their time away from the pitch playing football on a screen.

We’ve identified six stars that have spoken about how football games were a big part of their upbringing.


“A fun fact, I played a career mode with the Brazilian National Team. I played my first game here at Wembley [on FIFA pro game mode] and I also scored a goal,” said the 17-year-old Brazilian after he became the youngest player to ever score an international goal at Wembley, with his match-winner in the 1-0 victory over England.

“It keep coming to my mind, and I couldn’t think anymore in the game, which hurt my concentration [on last shot attempt].”

Endrick has recently penned a piece in The Players’ Tribune and explained that he always plays as Real Madrid in FIFA games with his younger brother:

“I met Bellingham, the really good one that always scores for me on PlayStation, and everyone calls him Jude, so I told him, “Hey Jude, for my next goal, I will celebrate like you.” When I scored, I sent him the video on Instagram, and he reposted it.”

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every Brazilian to score 10+ Champions League goals?

Alex Iwobi

“I’d look at his name and then try to remember how good he was on FIFA,” Iwobi told the New York Times back in 2016, when he was still a teenager breaking through at Arsenal.

He was describing his research process into opposition analysis, and the direct opponents he’d come up against.

The Times’ feature, How Video Games Are Changing the Way Soccer Is Played, is well worth a read. Part of the piece describes how Iwobi’s love of FIFA growing up influenced the player he grew up to be.

“He had all these tricks, things even he wouldn’t try in normal life,” Iwobi said of Ronaldinho, a favourite player on the game.

“He had one turn that I would go out into the garden and practice,” Iwobi added of Aiden McGeady of all people.

Dele Alli

A famously avid gamer, Alli was known for incorporating Fortnite dances into his celebrations.

“It started with Mario Kart, I think, as far as I can remember, I think it was either a GameCube or a Nintendo, that was probably the first console that I played it on,” he told The Mirror.

“From playing when I was younger, trying to beat my quickest lap, it all started there and obviously as time has progressed and new consoles have come out I’ve fallen more in love with it.

“It’s something I’ve been passionate about since I was younger, sort of alongside football, well obviously football was first, but in my spare time when I wasn’t training it was something I enjoyed doing.”

Football games, alongside Call of Duty and Mario Kart, were a part of his repertoire – and formed part of a bonding experience with his Tottenham and England team-mates.

‘We’re very different. But we play a lot of PlayStation,” Alli said of his relationship with Harry Kane in a 2018 interview with The Standard.

“I’m mostly addicted to PlayStation at the minute. When you’re playing with friends it gets really competitive, so you have to pick the best team! And the Dele Alli on FIFA isn’t very good. They’ve underestimated me.”

READ: 9 of football’s most hardcore gamers: Sancho, Neymar, Ozil…

Dejan Kulusevski

The Tottenham forward explained how late-night gaming online sessions helped him when he was doubting himself as a youngster at Juventus.

“Thank God for Joel Asoro, my best friend. We had been playing football together since we were kids, and when I was in Italy, we would connect online and have these all-night PlayStation marathons,” Kulusevski wrote in The Players Tribune.

“We’d put on our headsets, hook up on Skype and play [FIFA] Pro Clubs and NBA 2K. My Park was basically our lives. And we were so bad! We went on a losing streak of 30 games. There must have been kids out there going, “Jeeeeeez, who are these guys?”

“Well, I’ll tell you who we are. Joel and I are grinders. We don’t stop. Joel is playing at Metz now in Ligue 1, but back then he was at Sunderland trying to break into the first team, and every night we would hype each other up.”

Martin Odegaard

Arsenal’s captain wasn’t much of a gamer growing up, but he did love FIFA. He wrote in his Players Tribune piece:

“I’ve never been that much into video games. I am of that generation that always played outside, but the one exception was FIFA. I mostly played Career Mode. You know, where you get to be the manager?

“The club I always chose to manage was Arsenal. They were my FIFA team.”

Lionel Messi

Ask anyone who grew up with Messi at Barcelona’s La Masia academy, and they’ll describe this shy – almost mute – homesick kid. But paying FIFA gave him an opportunity to bond with his team-mates and gradually over time he came out of his shell.

“Fabregas was pretty good and so was Pique,” recalled former Barca youth teamer Julio de Dios in an interview with FourFourTwo.

“But Messi was a disaster! As time went on, he did get better, but he was terrible at the beginning. On the PlayStation he was awful, but on the pitch he was the best.”

Messi’s Argentina team-mate Pablo Zabaleta – who played for Barca’s city rivals Espanyol – tells a similar story:

“I was better at PlayStation than Messi,” the former right-back told the BBC. “He used to play with Chelsea a lot.

“I used to live in Barcelona city and he was living 30 minutes outside. We were playing on the internet.”

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