By: Matthew Rondina
Toronto recently played host to Red Bull AdrenaLAN presented by Bell, an event that had many faces of the esports world converge on the city. Philip Balke was a headlining athlete for the event, recognized as one of Canada’s elite FIFA players and Toronto FC‘s first esports pro.
In 2017 he qualified for the FIFA Interactive World Cup in London, England placing fourth in the world on the Xbox platform, cementing him as an elite eFIFA pro.
Balke has had a lot of success early in his career, and he sat down with World Gaming to share some inside knowledge on how to break into the scene.
WGN: How does it feel to be the very first eMLS athlete representing Toronto, and one of the few to represent Canada?
“It feels amazing! It’s a surreal moment to represent my city and Toronto is one of the biggest in the world, everyone knows Toronto so representing a city of this size is pretty cool.
Last year it was only me representing Canada at the world stage, I qualified for the World Cup in London. Honestly, it was surreal getting tweets from people in Canada that I didn’t know, saying, ‘good luck!’ People working at EA that developed FIFA saying, ‘good luck, bring it home.’
That was pretty cool to have the devs tweet at me and say, ‘good luck, we’ll be watching.’ It was pretty awesome, even my friends, can’t believe that Toronto FC signed me, they keep telling me this is the coolest thing ever.”
What brings you to Red Bull’s AdrenaLAN? Any particular event highlights for you?
“My involvement has been pretty cool, I played some games with Mitch Marner. We played some Fortnite, some FIFA, kicking it with him was pretty cool. I also met some fans that wanted to play me as well.”
How did the games go for the fans?
“I think one of the guys was expecting to beat me, and it definitely didn’t go that way.” *smiles*
Growing up were you involved in playing soccer? Or has your entire career been built on the virtual pitch?
“I was a pretty good soccer player growing up, when I was 17 I was expected to go to Europe and play there. Unfortunately, I had a pretty bad injury and broke my leg, that set me back.
I still do play soccer now, but not as I wanted to when I was younger. So my passion for the game, it didn’t go well for me playing, but I had another passion for esports and it was for FIFA.”
Who was your favourite soccer player growing up? Has that changed after the World Cup?
“My favourite player growing up was Messi, ever since he joined Barcelona FC when Ronaldinho was there. This was back in 2006, when I was really young watching Messi thinking this guy is really going to be the next big thing.
And what do you know, he’s one of the best players in the world him and Ronaldo… I don’t want to start that argument.” *laughs*
With so much success early in your career is there any point you stop and reflect, where do see your professional career going in the future?
“Honestly, I just want to keep going on this path and being the best in the world. At the end of my esports career, that’s when I’ll look back on my early achievements. I just want to continue to accomplish more things.”
What advice can you give to aspiring esports athletes? What does it take to reach an elite level of play?
“A lot of time dedication.
Always be patient with the game, don’t get mad, things don’t always go in your favour. Having patience is one of the biggest things, having that mentality that you want to be the best, that’s also good. Sometimes being too cocky doesn’t necessarily work out, honestly just dedicate yourself.
Practice like a professional athlete, 4 times a week, same with esports, I sit down and practice 4 – 6 times a week, 5 hours a day just playing video games.”
Do you use your real life soccer skills on the virtual pitch?
“Outside playing FIFA, I play in a league, so I practice 3 times a week. I use that same knowledge I have for the game and relate it back to FIFA, I use that same soccer IQ.”
What other games do you play?
“A game that I enjoy most right now is Fortnite, you can play as much of it as you want and have so much fun with it. Even if you lose, you line up another game and the next thing you know you’ve been playing for four hours. *laughs*
A game that I would want to purse if I wasn’t into FIFA, I would say 2K or Call of Duty. I am a big 2K fan.”
Have you gotten to meet any of the Toronto FC players?
I pretty much got to meet all of them, we had a media day with the club, they all came in and played a game of FIFA. I got to play with Giovinco as well so it was pretty awesome.
A special thanks to Phil and Toronto FC for taking the time to chat with us at Red Bull AdrenaLAN. Be sure to follow Phil’s career journey on twitter and instagram.
About the Author: Matthew Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Follow Matthew’s gaming adventures on twitter and join in on the fun!