FIFA 21 esports was changed by COVID-19, Joksan shares his experience
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Not many people are willing to attempt a rainbow flick in a game of FIFA 21. The move requires players to flick the right analog stick downwards, hold it upwards and then flick upwards again. It is a high risk, five-star move. However, pulling off a rainbow flick is one of the best ways to get a clear shot at goal. Even so, players often prefer not to attempt the skill, because it must be timed right and opposition defenders can easily block it. Not Joksan “Joksan” Redona though, who pulled the move off in a recent FIFA 21 esports match.

Risk seems to be a word missing from Joksan’s vocabulary. He ended the recent eClub World Cup against eMLS Champion Christopher “Chris” Holly, with a perfect rainbow flick goal.

With this goal, Joksan lifted the eClub World Cup for the second time in a row with his teammate, Max “Maxe vip” Popov. Just a week later, he won the North American qualifiers on PlayStation 4, making him a three-time champion in that event. Joksan’s dominance in FIFA 21 has earned him a guaranteed spot at regional playoffs.

While Joksan’s proven himself against North American competitors, he has yet to test international waters. It’s impossible to tell how he measures up against stars from other regions around the world, due to how the coronavirus pandemic has changed competitive FIFA.

“Even though I have been playing really well online, I am still hungry to win more tournaments. I am not happy right now with [all online tournaments], and hopefully there is a World Cup at the end,” Joksan said. “I want to qualify to the World Cup and do well.”

Has COVID-19 changed FIFA esports forever?

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed how FIFA esports works. The competition, which once included the entire world in its tournament series, has now split things apart into regional events. When EA Sports shut down the FIFA 20 Global Series last year, they made it clear that they would focus more on remote online tournaments.

The change had a major impact on competitors like Joksan. It was far more than just event cancellations. The pandemic included lockdowns, missing friends and being cooped up inside for months. But through it all, he still wanted to compete.

“I just adapted,” he said. “It is what it is and the tournaments are here. We need to play them, and if we need to play them online, we will play them online.”

The FIFA Global Series is a chance for every FIFA professional player to carve their name into esports history. Players get to compete in different tournaments with the best of the best, for a chance to make it to the eWorld Cup. Throughout the FIFA Global Series season, there are several events with different points for players to win.

The last time the FIFA community got to experience this entire process was in 2019. Germany triumphed over Saudi Arabia back then, as Mohammed “MoAuba” Harkous defeated Mosaad “Msdossary” Aldossary in a nail-biting thriller that ended 3-2. The eWorld Cup and FUT Champions Cups makes it much easier to decide the best player of that year. However, it is now tough to choose the region with the best players in FIFA 21.

FIFA 21 Joksan esports
Joksan is looking forward to competing against the best the world has to offer when travel and competition open back up internationally. | Image via EA

Everyone believes their own region has players that would match up against other regions. However, there’s no way to accurately measure that this year. Joksan thinks NA players are strong, but “every time you play against people in your region, they know how you play; you practice with them, so they already know how you play.”

The region-focused approach FIFA esports has taken makes it impossible to determine who the best player is. While Joksan is unsure of where he stands globally, he trusts that his gameplay at the moment ranks him with the very best in the world.

“At the global stage, I feel like I’m maybe top 10 or top 5 in the world right now because I have been playing very well,” he said. “I know the people in Europe are really good as well, and I feel like if I had to take them, I would not be scared. I feel confident to win the games.”

The lack of certainty, however also lingers in the minds of other pro players. They too have gone through the better part of 2020 and 2021 with no international test of their skills.

Although there are still plans for an eWorld Cup this year, FIFA 21 esports all depends on when the pandemic ends. Holding a FIFA 21 tournament sooner involves lots of risk, much like the rainbow flick goal that won it all for Joksan.

Jimoh Rashidat is a freelance esports writer with over two years of experience. She covers FIFA, League of Legends and general gaming content.