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Professional Saskatchewan gamer wins North American title for FIFA 21

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WATCH: Alex “Exraa” Gonzalez, who is the Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Xbox athlete, talks about the novel coronavirus pandemic’s impact on competitive gaming – Jan 14, 2021

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC currently has one of the best players on the continent — and he did so in Saskatchewan without stepping on the pitch.

Under the gaming name Exraa, Alex Gonzalez won an Xbox championship title this past weekend during the FIFA 21 Global Series North American Qualifier 1.

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“I played, I think, for four or five different series straight, which it was really tiring, honestly. Took maybe six hours in total. Yeah, that was really tiring,” Gonzalez said.

“Felt pretty good. I felt like I kind of, not kind of, but did deserve it overall, so I did feel good to pull through.”

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The win earned the 19-year-old a US$5,000 prize and points towards qualification for the North American regional playoffs.

“This is definitely my highest achievement to date, I’d say, because I actually won something,” Gonzalez said.

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The professional gamer solely trains and competes online in Regina.

“I started gaming when I was really young, six years old, but seriously gaming maybe six years ago,” Gonzalez said.

“I started majorly being interested in Call of Duty, that was my breakthrough, kind of game that I really wanted to try a lot and play a lot. But then I moved on to FIFA and I became really good.”

Gonzalez grew up in Mexico before settling in the middle of the Prairies as a teenager.

“I lived in Mexico for few years with my family and then a job opportunity came up in Vancouver in B.C. and so we move there and lived there for a few years and then another job opportunity came for both (parents) so we moved here,” Gonzalez said.

“I like it. It’s cold and that’s like a really big drawback but apart from that, it’s pretty cool.”

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As a soccer player with FC Regina, Gonzalez spent time playing in the Whitecaps FC BMO Saskatchewan Academy Centre. These days, he’s is an official eSports gamer with the Major League Soccer (MLS) club.

“Yeah it’s different but it’s pretty cool … It’s not a thing a lot of people get to do,” he said.

Gonzalez said he’s hoping his play transcends overseas against competitors to become the global champion in December.

“My goal is to keep winning, I don’t want it to be a one-time thing, I want to be multiple,” Gonzalez said.

“The Europe qualifiers themselves, they get like a thousand players on Xbox and PlayStation. So, I mean, there’s honestly thousands.”

The Whitecaps’ FIFA eSports team GM Tyler Wilson, who hails from Regina, said they’ve come a long way since their launch in 2018. The club now has two official eSports athletes – Gonzalez on Xbox and Erfan “Skill Shack” Hosseini on PlayStation.

“We started off with most MLS teams did with a foot in the water … and the whole scene has just grown so much with league play outside of the eMLS Cup even. As an example, we’re playing in three different leagues this week alone,” he said.

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“We’re the only team right now in Canada that has an Xbox and a PlayStation player.

“We’re looking at this globally and our guys are … really showcasing our club. I mean, the match Alex won the other day and I haven’t looked at the stats today, but (Monday) there was already a quarter-million people who had viewed it so they’re quite popular.”

Team play continues on Thursday as Exraa and Skill Shack once again come together in qualifying for the 2021 FIFAe Club World Cup. The North American Qualifier 2 event will take place on Feb. 6 and 7.

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