FIFA, to the people who do not play it and to the vast majority who do play it, is just a game.
A bit of fun, an escape from reality, but in recent years it has become the reality for many around the globe.
It is people’s career and livelihoods these days, plus so many people love to watch it.
There are professional FIFA players and many of them, which meant Sam Morton finishing as a runner-up in the play-offs to represent Liverpool was even more impressive.
For Sam it was always a bit of fun until he reached the final to be Liverpool’s ePremier League representative.
Being a good friend of his I sat down with him, from a safe distance in his front garden, to talk all about it and what this means for him now.
The qualifiers were a good few months ago and Morton entered for the first time after getting a little push from the people who know him best.
“Probably my mates, yourself, our Jack (brother) were the main catalysts behind it, and I was just like well I’m not doing anything else.”
Before signing up for the qualifiers MortoLFC9802, as he is known on Xbox, had achieved an incredible feat of coming fourth in the world in a FUT Champs weekend league, winning every single one of his 30 games, which “triggered” him to look into the ePremier League which he never really considered a couple of years ago.
“It was a mix between lockdown and this FIFA (21) because obviously you have a lot of time to play the game and with time comes improvement, even on Fifa 20 I was just blitzing kids all day so it has been in my mind since the first lockdown to do something like this.”
The first part of the whole tournament was a table consisting of 800 players and you had to finish in the top seven to get through, Sam finished 5th.
When asked about the qualifiers the John Moores University student started laughing and said: “It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done, it was like playing Ben (a friend) all day.
“Swear to God right on me first game I was like oh my God this is going to be the most challenging thing in my life.
“Beat the kid 18-0.”
We both laughed at the mention of Ben as throughout the day of the tournament on Wednesday everyone in the group chat had been watching from 3pm to 11pm and were trying to give him advice as if he had not beaten all of us thousands of times before.
When questioned about whether he took any of the advice on board Morton said: “I was just trying to play my own game really and use my game plan.
“The support was great, I felt like I had the whole of Liverpool on me side near enough, the group chat, the college lads, even some Uni mates were watching.”
To get to the Semi-final play-offs the life-long Liverpool fan had to play three two-legged games and at that time he did not really know what his expectations should be, being a casual player.
“I was confident but then I was just like I am against quality players, but I always try to back myself against pretty much any player I play against.”
A motto that Morton likes to use a lot is “If you can’t back yourself then who can you back” and that certainly came into fruition when he played in the semi-final.
It was streamed on Liverpool FC’s YouTube to thousands of viewers and Sam had to wear his Liverpool top that he had been given by the club for the occasion.
“I was 5-0 down within about 30 in-game minutes and I got it to 5-1 at half-time, but I was about 3-0 down in eight minutes and I was getting live streamed so it was just damage limitation at this point.
“I got it back to 5-4 scored two late goals. Got into the second leg and rolled him over 5-0 wow, wiped the floor with him really.”
There was no wonder the hosts of the event on Liverpool’s YouTube were calling it a ‘fairy-tale’ semi-final for MortoLFC.
When he got to the final against Tekkz, who is one of the best Fifa players in the world and has been for years, it was always going to be a tough ask.
“He just cut me channels, I thought I dealt with him well but he just knew what to do. I was in attacking areas and I felt like I couldn’t do anything, he would know where I wanted to go and he would force me to places I wouldn’t want to go and then I’d have to start again.”
MortoLFC did beat Tekkz in the second leg of the final 1-0 with a header from team of the year Virgil Van Dijk so in some aspects his ‘game plan’ did work but Samuel, to use his full name, did accept that “it was just game management” from the professional.
At this point we were delightfully interrupted by his mother with a Pepperoni Pizza which brought me quite nicely onto the topic of the support from his parents, Tracy and John.
“They seen all the play-off semis but when I was playing the group stage I would just tell them if I’d won.
“They were pretty shocked to see me on YouTube but they were celebrating.”
Having trained to be a goalkeeper all his life and playing at the famous Dallas Cup in America for Everton football college, which he described as ‘one of the best experiences of my life’ this could be a different step into the footballing world.
“There is more chance of me becoming a professional Fifa player than a professional football player but I would like to make it semi-pro playing football.
“Hopefully this is the start of something big, when you’ve got ability to play against the top players you want to try and make it something rather than it just be casual.”
In many ways there was a bit of poetry in Sam reaching the final to lose 3-1 as it resembled Jurgen Klopp’s first season at Liverpool losing the Europa League final by the same score line.
Hopefully Sam Morton can make this into a spectacular journey for himself, so let us see where it takes him.
He will be needing all the support he can get as he starts to get streaming on Twitch.
To be able to view and subscribe his username is @smorton02 on Twitch and you can also find it on his Twitter which is @Sammorton2002.
By Elliot Thompson