#NairaLife: This 24-Year-Old Makes Millions Playing FIFA – Zikoko

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.
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In 2018, the pro gamer on this week’s #NairaLife won the first-ever FIFA competition he played. It paid ₦100k. Since then, he’s represented Nigeria in Côte d’Ivoire and Israel, and has made up to ₦5m in one day playing FIFA.
Omo, I’ve been gaming since primary school. I’m the last born, and I have two older brothers who had the PS1 and PS2 when they came out, so we were always playing games at home. There was Street Fighter, Pro Evolution Soccer, FIFA, Lord of the Rings, Wrestling and so much more. 
Obviously, I started out chopping Ls from my brothers, but I got better as I grew older because I played a lot. 
Ah, they did. I made sure I played every game until I was able to beat every difficulty level. So I started with the easiest and kept playing against the computer until I could defeat the most difficult level. 
As you can imagine, it required a lot of playing, and my parents didn’t like it. In primary school, when exams were approaching, they seized the consoles so I could focus on reading. When I got into secondary school in 2008, they sent me to a boarding house, and sometimes seized the games when I was home on holiday because I wasn’t “socialising”. 
Throughout boarding school, I got ₦1,500 per month to spend at the tuck shop. 
2014. University —
Electrical and electronics engineering. I wanted to study computer science because I liked games and computers, but my dad thought engineering was broader and would give me more opportunities, so I studied that instead. 
What I actually wanted to be was a footballer. 
There aren’t enough opportunities for young people who want to be footballers in Nigeria to make it. I played for my primary and secondary school, and played a lot of football in university. I even joined a semi-professional football team outside school to better my chances. But someone on the team tried to scam me because he thought I was an omo butter who just had money to give away. Like many other young Nigerian boys, the dream sha faded away gradually. 
Many guys in university had games on their computers. I did too. Naturally, we started playing FIFA against one another, and it was obvious I was much better than most people. When you beat plenty people on FIFA, you become the person everyone who thinks they’re good wants to challenge, so I quickly became popular on campus. People from different hostels came to face me. I lost a few games, but nobody ever consistently beat me. If you beat me once, I’d beat you back multiple times. 
During tradefairs, we did betting games. Everyone in a group of 16 people would drop ₦1k and the winner would take all. I won plenty times, and me and my guys just used the money to flex. That’s just how things were until I won my first ₦100k in 2018. 
May 26, 2018, the day of the Champions League final. I can never forget. There was a competition somewhere in Lekki that my friend told me about. It was free to register and the winner out of 64 people would get ₦100k. I was scared to register because I didn’t believe in myself like that, but my friend persuaded me. 
The competition was played in knockout format: two people would face each other, the loser is out, and it keeps going like that until there are only two people left. I only had to play five games without losing. God, I was so happy when I won the money. For the first time, I considered myself world-class and decided I was going to play FIFA professionally. 
I used the ₦100k to buy a PS4 so I could play better, and play online. 
I was on internship at an oil company during that period. The pay was ₦40k, the same amount as my monthly allowance in university, so it just felt normal. 
That same year, I went for another competition in November. This one was more popular and had about 128 competitors who were all pro gamers. I paid ₦2k to register. I’m not making excuses o, but I know I didn’t play my best because of tension. I got knocked out at the round of 16. 
LMAO, thanks. After I graduated in 2019, I went home, bought a router and started playing online so I could sharpen my skills. Then I heard about a company that organised gaming competitions and started going there. It was more competitive, so I didn’t win every time. I remember coming second at one big event, and I was interviewed by journalists, but there was no cash prize. I sha kept playing tournaments until I won a big one. 
National qualifiers for an event in Côte d’Ivoire. I won to represent Nigeria. 
Not just me sha. The second and third position from the competition also went to Côte d’Ivoire. 
Nah, just an all-expense-paid trip. 
There were about eight countries, and almost 200 players. Other countries brought more than three players. Côte d’Ivoire had more than all countries combined. I finished in the final eight — quarter-finals. 
I felt bad because I dominated the game I lost, but somehow, I still lost. I knew I deserved at least a semi-final spot. It was also reassuring to get that far in the competition. Remember that tension I felt when I played pro gamers in Nigeria? Everything disappeared. I returned to Nigeria and started winning competitions. That same year, I won ₦100k, ₦50k, another ₦100k, another ₦50k and $1k. 
They didn’t know much about it because I didn’t want them to. You know Nigerian parents. Even when I went to Côte d’Ivoire, I didn’t give them too much detail. They knew I was travelling, but it was just, “Oh, hope the people you’re going with are trustworthy. Be safe o.” It was only in December 2021, when I won big money, that I told them. 
LMAO. From January to September 2020, I worked as a support engineer at an IT company for ₦30k monthly because of NYSC. Also in January, some company reached out to some of the best players in Lagos for an invitational where they paid us ₦20k per game, as a thank you for accepting their invitation. I played three games and won the competition. The prize for winning was ₦50k, so I made a total of ₦90k. I added ₦90k to it and bought an iPhone in February. 
Most of 2020 was just online competitions because of COVID. I won many of them, but also came second and third sometimes. Late 2020 though, an annual LG gaming competition that takes place across different Nigerian states was held, and I won the Lagos one. The prize was an LG TV worth about ₦700k. I sold it for ₦680k. 
In 2021, LG did a grand finale with the winners from all the states in the 2020 competition. I came second and won ₦500k while the winner won ₦1.5 million. I used the money to buy a PS5. I also interned at a fintech for a few months. Pay was ₦80k monthly.
Then in November, I represented Nigeria in Israel for the World Esports Championships. 
There’s a yearly world tournament organised by the International Esports Federation, but because there were no qualifier games, they didn’t have anyone to represent Nigeria. So they just reached out to me.
It wasn’t straight to knockouts. They first put us in groups, and then, if you qualified from your group, you got to play in the knockouts. In a group of four people, only two could qualify. Well, I didn’t qualify from my group, but I don’t feel bad about it because the two people who qualified went on to be winner and runner-up of the entire tournament.
I sha got to travel and meet new people, and that’s what matters. 
In December, there was another competition. People flew in from places like Abuja to Lagos to play. One guy, a proper pro, even came from Dubai, so you can imagine the tension in the air. 
In the quarter-finals, I faced the guy who came from Dubai, and that was by far the toughest game of the competition. It took one tiny mistake for me to beat him. The other two people I faced weren’t as tough, so I won the competition. 
Yep. My dad started calling me “big boy”. He didn’t believe. I sha gave him and my mum ₦100k each as a token for their love. 
This year, I’ve won two ₦500k competitions and another LG TV, which I sold for about ₦300k. 
I don’t have a specific figure, but it should be at least ₦15m. Apart from the competitions, there are one-on-one betting matches I play. Recently, I won ₦2m in one sitting because someone came and said they wanted to bet ₦500k per game. I won all four games. Over the years, there have been countless ₦100k betting games too. 
Just one game. It was online. I don’t like playing online because of lags, and I let the guy know. Like I predicted, network was bad and he beat me, so I just paid him his ₦20k and didn’t play further. 
I want to take my career to the next level. I’ve won in Nigeria so many times that when I show up at a competition, people say stuff like, “Oya, give him the money. He has already won.” Many excellent players in Nigeria challenge me, but I want to take things to the next level.
Recently, FIFA made Nigeria eligible for the FIFA Global Series (FGS), so I’m looking to qualify for it. If I do, my rank will go higher and I’ll eventually be eligible to play in official FIFA competitions. So I’ve bought 5G internet, and I’m grinding to get better. I also live stream my games.
Recently, many organisations have been working to make the gaming ecosystem in Nigeria much bigger and better. Some Google-backed companies organise competitions, and the cash prizes are getting bigger. So even though I’m trying to go global, it’s still a great time to be a gamer in Nigeria. 
To move abroad, so I can participate in the FGS. Even though it’s coming to Nigeria, I know internet lags would probably happen because the closest FIFA server to us is in Spain. Being in Europe gives an advantage. 
I have like ₦1.2m in savings, $200 in forex trading and $500 in crypto. 
I don’t keep all the money I win o. I have to settle my guys. I probably keep about 60% of whatever money I win. But also, I’ve bought some stuff this year.  
I got a gaming chair for less than ₦100k, and I’m pretty sure I’ve spent nothing less than ₦500k partying and drinking this year.
It’s like 7. I have money I can use to get whatever I want at any point in time, and I don’t have to be in an office. I just make money playing FIFA. That’s amazing. 
I’m sure it will, but I’m also learning how to program just so I have an extra skill. 
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