By Ronan Murphy

English teenager Donovan Hunt arrived at the FUT 18 Champions Cup in Barcelona as the 55th ranked Xbox player out of 64 qualifiers on the console.

The qualifier list included the biggest and best FIFA 18 players including Spencer “Unilad Gorilla” Ealing, who had lifted the FIFA Interactive World Cup in 2017 (now known as the FIFA eWorld Cup).

It was the 16-year-old’s first ever major competitive event, but over three days, the player known as DhTekKz’s attack-minded approach saw him beat the best that the game had to offer, including FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series champion Corentin “Vitality Rocky” Chevrey.

After the tournament victory, he was lost for words, wondering where he might keep his new Champions Cup trophy: “Honestly, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know where to put it!”

Within hours, he had been approached by the F2, a pair of football freestylers who saw a gap in the market to expand into esports, and made him their first (and only) professional FIFA player, renaming him F2Tekkz in the process.

“A lot of our followers, 70 per cent of them play FIFA,” the F2’s Billy Wingrove told Goal. “There’s a lot of synergy between our audience and the game itself.

“Esports was on our radar to get involved in and we just needed the right opportunity to arise. With Tekkz coming on the scene as the most-skilled FIFA player, it was a perfect collaboration.

“For us, we’re all about 'tekkerz' and his name is Tekkz, and there’s not too many players out there that use the outrageous skills that he does.”

Before qualifying for his first FIFA competition, F2Tekkz was just like any other teenager, football-focused rather than FIFA-focused, training and playing outdoors with his friends and cheering on his favourite team Liverpool on television at the weekend.

“He’d only play FIFA when there was nothing else to do with football,” his mother Dawn told Goal

“In the school holidays, there was less football going on so he would play FIFA a bit more. Only during the school holidays, would I have to drag him off FIFA and get him to go outside and do something else instead.”

It was actually his mother who noticed that he had the ability to play FIFA at a higher level, and pushed him to compete. “I’ve always watched Donovan play FIFA,” she explains. “I always knew he was good. He was always the best of his friends.

“When he was 15, he came and told me that he had beaten a professional player online. At first I thought ‘maybe the professional was having a bad day or it was down to a bit of luck,’ but then it kept happening, so I looked into tournaments.

“We didn’t know anything about professional FIFA at that point, so I went online to gauge how good he was and found out about an online tournament through Gfinity.

“When he came home from school, we registered for the tournament online that night and he won it. He was still just 15, but when he was 16 he was able to try out for the professional tournaments.

“I had read an article about what you need to play professionally, but we hadn’t got a gaming monitor, we just had an old television. But he kept playing in FIFA tournaments and kept winning them, but it was hard for him to qualify for the top 64 as the internet was so bad and was letting him down. 

“We moved away from the house in Devon because we couldn’t get any better internet where we were living.

“I’m originally from the West Midlands, and my situation had changed so I could buy a house back there and the internet would also be good enough for Donovan. We took the risk, but it was worth it.

“The house I bought was one that needed to be done up, so he was sat on the floor trying to qualify for the FIFA tournament. But as soon as he moved, he was able to qualify for the tournament in Barcelona, and he won it and after that, things just went crazy.”

While F2Tekkz was impressive on FIFA 18, he was unstoppable on FIFA 19. As an Xbox player, he missed out on the Continental Cup in late 2018 because it was Playstation 4 only, but qualified for and won the FUT Champions Cup in Bucharest in December 2018 to start his competitive gaming season off in style.

He demolished PS4 player and Continental Cup champion Joksan Redonda 7-1 over two legs (one on each console) in the final, with the victory netting the teenager $50,000 (£40,000) in prize money as well as 1,500 Global Series Points (the scoring system used to rank the best players in the world and determine who qualifies for the FIFA eWorld Cup at the end of the season).

Just a week later, F2Tekkz was picking up another trophy and another cheque, this time at the PGL Cup for $12,000 (£9,500). His meteoric rise saw him join his favourite team Liverpool for the inaugural ePremier League, lifting the trophy by beating Manchester United’s Kyle Leese in the final. He also teamed up with Basel’s Nicolas “Nicolas99fc” Villalba for the eClub World Cup, taking home another title.

“With FIFA, there’s always going to be new stars every year,” former FIFA Interactive World Cup finalist and esports presenter Mike LaBelle told Goal. “Especially with young guys getting involved. When you see young players win, you think ‘is this the future or just a one-off?’

“But, F2Tekkz has had some momentum since that first win in Barcelona and has been the most consistent player in the FIFA community.

“We’ve never seen a player have so much success in one year. FIFA is a game where the skill gap is small, so to see consistent results is very rare. The margins are so small between winning and losing events.”

Tekkz was signed by the F2 because of his innovative playing style and his love of skill moves. Whereas many other players only use skill moves when they have sufficient space to do so, Tekkz is known for surprising opponents with tricks to get himself out of tight spaces.

“Why he's so good is because he has everything in the game down to a T," FIFA eWorld Cup commentator Brandon Smith told Goal.

“He knows exactly where and when to use a skill move, how to time his shots, defensively his goalkeeping movement is superb, he's one of the best defenders we've seen.

“When someone has all of that and is so good and so consistent, as well as the mental side of the game, it all helps and makes him the ultimate FIFA player.”

As a presenter of EA Sports’ live Twitch streams from FIFA events, LaBelle gets the opportunity to watch the best in the world each month. He believes that F2Tekkz’s ability to evolve as the game evolves and his coolness under pressure is what separates him from everyone else competing at the top level.

“Even when he wins tournaments, he’s still adapting,” LaBelle says. “He’s very underrated. A lot of attention is paid to his offence, his skill moves and the intricacies he has in his gameplay.

“But it’s his defence that wins tournaments, he has brilliant defence. He might be the best defensive players and then one of the most creative players. He’s also got that mental strength. He’s had difficult moments where he’s done the right thing at the right moment.”

Tekkz agrees that it’s this balance that gives him an advantage, telling Goal: “I’ve got an attacking style of play but I also think I’m good at defending. I score plenty of goals but I’ve got a good defence as well so it’s hard to score against me. It’s a good contrast.”

He tends to approach all games the same, but always has something else up his sleeve in case things don’t go to plan: “I’ll just use my exact same style and skills. Then try and win the ball back as soon as possible after I lose it and just keep doing what I’m doing.

“Hopefully I can win. If people do figure out my style I’ve got a Plan B in mind so it’s all good.”

LaBelle believes that Tekkz does not give himself enough credit, as he has more than just a Plan B, and comes to every competitive fully-prepared, even skipping smaller competitions the way professional golfers do to focus on the crucial tournaments.

“The game shifts all year long at the competitive level and I feel that he’s always ahead of the shift,” LaBelle explains. “He has a superb level of creativity. You might think you’re stopping him and then he shows you something new.

“He has a really good mastery of the meta [the general playing style of the best players at any one time], and I always feel that Tekkz dictates the meta in many of these events.

“He dictates the progression of the gameplay. When playing in an event, you’re watching other guys to see why and how they’re winning. What Tekkz does, is after winning an event, he still makes changes. He’s always innovating his gameplay, adding new ways of scoring goals.

“He’s always a step ahead of the curve. Many players are trying to replicate what he’s doing, but he constantly evolves.

“Between salary and brand endorsements, content creation, winnings at events, I think he can be our first FIFA millionaire. He’s a star. He’s a leader in our community, and he’s just a teenager.”

Thanks to his ability to always stay ahead of the curve, F2Tekkz has won over $250,000 (£200,000) in prize money this season from playing in FIFA 19 tournaments, often trading trophies with world #2 Mosaad "Msdossary" Aldossary.

Between them, they dominated the monthly FUT Championship Cup events, winning six of the seven tournaments from December through April. However, despite both players having Xbox as their ‘home console’, they are yet to face each other in the final of a major competition.

Despite the successes and the money, he still remains a normal teenager, albeit one who gets noticed in public by FIFA fans. “He never does things without being asked,” his mother admitted.

“His room does get messy but as soon as I ask him, he cleans it up, but if I don’t, I’ll go in and there will be drinks bottles everywhere.

“But it is strange people recognising him. To me, he’s just Donovan. It takes some getting used to, but it’s lovely though. It’s really nice when someone comes over and is happy getting their picture with it. I’m very proud of him.”

Msdossary is the current FIFA eWorld Cup holder, the one trophy that so far eludes F2Tekkz. Last season, the Saudi Arabia native defeated the 32 best players in the world to win the biggest tournament of them all and win over $250,000 in the process.

F2Tekkz is widely considered the greatest pro FIFA player of all-time, but his GOAT status would surely be cemented with victory at the FIFA eWorld Cup.

In that way, F2Tekkz’s GOAT narrative mirrors Lionel Messi’s, having achieved almost everything there is and won every trophy possible, except for the white whale of the World Cup.

Msdossary is the Cristiano Ronaldo to F2Tekkz’s Messi, having hoisted the trophy already, much like the Portugal international has in the European Championship and Nations League.

“A bad event for Tekkz is losing in the semi-final,” LaBelle says. Lionel Messi’s 2019 Copa America is seen as yet another disappointment for football’s GOAT, but he still picked up a bronze medal at the tournament.

“I don’t think there was any tournament this year, where Tekkz wasn’t in contention for the trophy,” EA’s Sam Turkbas told Goal. “His first event was a monumental event. It was the first time we had an event with 128 players, 64 on each console.

“He was 16 and qualified for an event where no-one had heard of him. He persevered through all that. He was mentally tough and was an amazing player. He took the tournament by storm.

“After the event, we all had dinner together, all the EA staff and all the players. When Tekkz walked in, he received a standing ovation from everyone. It was an incredible moment. It goes to show how special he is as a player to get that reaction at his first tournament.

“He’s the biggest star in competitive FIFA right now. When he plays, more people watch the matches.

“He’s a great ambassador, a great star, but he’s also helped build some great rivalries. He and Msdossary have a legitimate rivalry for who the best player is. Tekkz has dominated a lot of tournaments this year and Dossary has won his fair share of events, but Dossary has won the eWorld Cup title that Tekkz wants now.

“He’s also a bit like LeBron James before he got his first NBA title. Everyone knew what a dominant talent he was, but he hadn’t won that NBA title yet.

“That was the real question: how can you be the best ever or among the best if you haven’t won that title. The comparison between Messi and Ronaldo is apt too. He’s had the most dominant season that anyone could have imagined, but right behind him, you have Msdossary as well.

“The big difference between them is that Msdossary has the eWorld Cup title that he won last year. Can Tekkz carry that regular season performance into the eWorld Cup and actually take that title?”

There is no doubting which FIFA player is better, with F2Tekkz having more than twice as many Global Series points as Msdossary after finishing runner-up at the FIFA 19 Global Series Xbox One Playoffs.

Their rankings as the top two in the world also ensure that they are kept apart in the FIFA eWorld Cup Group stage, leaving a possible clash of the titans for the quarter-finals at the earliest.

“When I go to tournaments, I don't really care about the money, I just want to win the trophy,” he told the BBC in January. “My main goal is to become champion at the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final at the end of the year.”