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FUT Champions Shows The Best And Worst Of The FIFA Community

I can’t play as much weekend league as I used to. Such are the demands of being an adult, I have a child who requires my attention as well as countless tasks to do that have built up over the week. If I want to sit down and relax, I’m not going to hop onto FIFA’s most competitive and stressful mode for a quick match. Firstly, it’s a waste of my Champs entry that I’ve fought hard for, and secondly I simply wouldn’t enjoy my downtime.

If I wanted to relax, I’d play some Apex Legends (public matches, not ranked) or hatch some eggs in Pokemon Sword & Shield hoping for a shiny. Maybe I’d try a new game on my Switch, or download something single-player off Xbox Game Pass. I still haven’t ever finished God of War because I got bored, maybe I’ll try that again? What I’m saying is, FIFA is notorious for being a particularly toxic game when playing online, and FUT Champions is its sweatiest mode, so toxicity is practically a given.

But I found myself with a free evening on Friday night. And, having not competed in FUT Champions once yet this season, it called to me. Was I ready to sweat my arse off for the whole evening for a chance at red Marquinhos or Theo Hernandez? I’d already qualified, anyway. How toxic could it still be?

In my first match, my past-and-present Liverpool team had its collective arse thoroughly handed to it in a 6-1 drubbing. I couldn’t really have any complaints – I was clearly up against a good player, and Eusebio up front was eating poor Joe Gomez for dinner. I really wish his Fire card would drop in price so I can upgrade him, but that’s besides the point. Things soon got better, the matches got closer, but the toxicity was quickly apparent.

There are different levels of being ‘toxic’ in FIFA. In FUT Champions, I don’t believe sweaty play is particularly toxic. Scoring from byline cutbacks or even cheeky pullbacks is fine: this is the most competitive FIFA can get without looking at esports! Players hacking you down when you’re through on goal is annoying, sure, but what centre back wouldn’t do that in real life? Think Giorgio Chiellini on Bukayo Saka in the Euro 2020 Final – it happens. It’s even more annoying when they only get a booking (both in FUT Champs and the Euros), but that’s a problem with refereeing, not my opponent. I don’t even mind opponents who try to kick the ball between their defenders to waste the final ten minutes of a match and secure the win – I take that as a compliment, because they clearly think I’m good enough to equalise against them. I close them down and give the equaliser my best bet anyway, so it’s a risky strategy against my gegenpress.

What does constitute toxic gameplay then? Watching long, drawn out celebrations after scoring an easy goal. The Neymar dance, the ‘SUIIIII’ that just reminds me that a player credibly accused of rape is millions of people’s footballing idol, classy old players like Cruyff or Pele doing stupid backflips or shushing motions that are far beneath men of their stature. You scored from a corner glitch, there’s no need to brag about it.

Sending messages to other players is also almost always toxic. I received a few messages over the course of my Friday night, all of which contained multiple swear words and most of which included slurs. Two players were actually "doing" my mother while playing me, which I found especially surprising. After years in games media, these kinds of messages have little effect on me, but imagine if you were playing against a child and you sent those messages? I reported them and moved on, but if you’re ever thinking about sending a message after conceding a goal on FIFA, you’ve already lost.

The final toxic trait on FIFA needs a little explaining. You get four points for a win in FUT Champions, and one point for a loss. You need to meet certain thresholds to be eligible for rewards, which often results in needing a few losses to make the next rank, despite the fact that winning all three wouldn’t take you to any higher. In these instances, some FIFA players will score an own goal from kick off or allow their opponent to score, before quitting, essentially gifting their opponent four points. This happened once to me this weekend, and I knew from the moment I laid eyes on the Bronze team in front of me that I had lucked out, and restored my faith in the FIFA community.

On another instance, however, my opponent made out like they were going to score an own goal, only for their goalkeeper to boot it out for a throw-in, and they subsequently quit. There’s just no need – what have you got to gain from doing this? When every game of the 20 is important for collecting as many points as possible, it’s petty, spiteful, and more than a little bit toxic.

Despite the celebrations, messages, and spiteful quits, I saw some good in the FIFA Community. I received a few ‘gg’ messages after games, and someone even complimented my off-meta team – clearly sick of the Flashback Benzemas that take control of most matches. I sent plenty of ggs too, to players who I felt beat me in a sportsmanlike manner, so it was nice to see other people doing the same. Sending a gg if you won has always felt like gloating to me, so I only initiated it on my losses, which were plentiful.

I played against some cool teams and good players, lost in extra time once and won in extra time on a different occasion. My Friday evening ended largely positively, and not just because I went 8-12 and made Division 6, which was a much better performance than expected as I can’t put as much time into the highest level of FIFA action as I could before. 20 matches in a row is a lot, and I would recommend spreading your matches out over the weekend if possible, but I never felt tilted by the toxic players I faced, and I think I’ve got the lovelier end of the FIFA community to thank for that.

Sportsmanship costs nothing, so give your opponent a nice handshake and swap virtual shirts at the end of a match instead of letting a game sour your mood. And, please, if you’re going to send a message, make sure it says “gg” and nothing more.

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