Türkiye’s eFootball star Arda Yildiz cannot wait to welcome the world for the GEF’s annual celebration of the truly diverse global esports community
It does not seem to matter whether he is training, at school, or simply relaxing with his family, Arda Yildiz’s mind simply will not stop careering towards Friday, December 16, and the Opening Ceremony of the highly prestigious Global Esports Games 2022 (#GEG22) in Istanbul, Türkiye.
“It’s so cool, I am so excited about wearing the Türkiye uniform,” said Yildiz, who will represent his homeland in the eFootball™ 2023 finals.
“I know if I put too much pressure on myself it won’t be good, so I try not to, but it’s hard not to think about the Games all the time.”
It is not easy to ignore the fact that over 300 elite esports athletes representing 65 different nations, plus world-leading publishers, developers and industry partners are convening in your home city. But while the sheer magnitude of the Global Esports Federation’s annual celebration of equality, inclusion and innovation is a lot to comprehend, it is also thoroughly inspiring.
“There are so many countries coming, and I am a host. If I think about it like that, it’s a bit stressful,” the 15-year-old Yildiz laughed. “So, my family and friends are also telling me to stop thinking about it so much. I am trying.”
The high school student has known for only a number of weeks that he would be competing in the second annual #worldconnected GEG – the emerging epicenter of the esports calendar – but he feels like he has been building up to this moment for years.
“I started playing eFootball when I was nine because I loved football,” he explained. “I still play football twice a week, in midfield, with my school team, and just with friends, but I am better at eFootball. I have put many more hours into eFootball than football on the pitch.
“It’s all about training – training the movements, the reactions, the skills. During the (Covid-19 pandemic) quarantine I was training so much. Maybe that’s when I became very good.”
Yildiz certainly is very good with the connection between virtual and traditional sports – something the GEF is always promoting – clear for the teenager. After performing impressively in a series of online tournaments he made it to the national championships last month. A succession of victories in the online early rounds led Yildiz to his first in-person major final.
It was an experience that still makes him smile.
“I won the first match (in the final) 3-2. In the second game, I lost 2-1, and (in) the third game, I was leading 3-2 and I conceded a goal in the last minute. We went to extra time, but I scored a goal and won 4-3,” Yildiz said, unable to hide his infectious laughter.
“I was really happy because I trained so much. It is my biggest achievement so far and I knew if I won, I would play at the GEG.”
Now he is there, Yildiz is determined to put on a great show for the expected large crowds, especially since he knows his friends and family will be among the excited masses of the ever-growing esports community.
“Of course, I will try to win it,” Yildiz said. “I have competed in a few tournaments, and I have beaten some great opponents. I know my potential and I trust myself.”
While he revealed he is keeping up with the later stages of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Yildiz models his own game on a famous club team – further indicating the seamless way in which the GEF’s #worldconnected is bringing the virtual and traditional sports worlds together.
“Barcelona suit my style, they are my ideal team,” he said. “My attack is better compared to my defence. I have an offensive playing style. I like to do skill moves and I never try and stick with one tactic. I don’t want my opponent to understand me.”
For those willing him to a home victory, he saves the most encouraging message of all for last.
“I like pressure. Being too comfortable is not good.”