Sunday 22 July 2018

E3 2018: 'Sometimes I amaze even myself,' says David Meyler on his FIFA likeness

At E3 in LA, Ireland star tells Ronan Price how he became a YouTube star off the pitch

Ireland football star David Meyler at the EA Play event in Los Angeles on June 9, 2018. Photo: Ronan Price
Ireland football star David Meyler at the EA Play event in Los Angeles on June 9, 2018. Photo: Ronan Price
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

REMEMBER the time Ireland beat Brazil 9-0? I do. David Meyler played an absolute stormer, marshalling the whole team. Neymar flounced around being useless and the South Americans could barely string two passes together.

Not ringing any bells? Fair enough, no one else was watching when the Ireland and Reading soccer star single-handedly took on the Brazilians (me) in FIFA 18 as we shot the breeze at E3 a couple of weeks ago.

The 29-year-old Irishman has built up a huge following on YouTube (325,000 subscribers and counting) for his energetic performances in front of the camera playing FIFA and opening FUT card packs. He graciously agreed to an interview when I met him at random during the EA event at E3 in Los Angeles, where he was acting as a FIFA ambassador, playing in a tournament and commentating on other matches. Even better, he accepted my foolish challenge of a game of FIFA 18 as we chatted.

Meyler is an affable Corkonian who plied his trade at Hull until his move this month to fellow Championship side Reading. He’s been an Ireland regular since his international debut in 2012. But he’s almost as well known for his FIFA streaming on YouTube and Twitch since he began two years ago, thanks to his gregarious style and his enthusiastic catchphrase “Yes, lads!”.

He admits it’s very weird to watch himself in FIFA. “I grew up playing FIFA against my friends back home and it's all surreal,” he explains as we’re surrounded by YouTubers playing EA games at the Hollywood Palladium. “We used do the career mode and try to get all the best players, all our favourites. And now, like, I'm in the game!

“I do amaze myself sometimes at some of the stuff I do in-game. Some of my stuff is quite good,” he says with a cheeky grin, before opening the scoring in our Ireland vs Brazil friendly match-up with a simple tap-in. Clearly, he’s not going to go easy on me, and he soon adds another two. “People might think you’re better in the game than in real life,” I venture tongue-in-cheek. “Some might say that,” he says, laughing.

Not surprisingly, many of his club and country team-mates are just as big fans of FIFA, though he admits he got a bit of slagging when his YouTube clips begin to take off.

“When I started posting videos on YouTube, the lads were a bit, like, what are you doing?” he says. “And then they saw the growth of my channel and how much people were actually interested in it. So then they were kinda, like, fair play. And some of them even wanted to get involved in the videos."

At Hull, he made videos featuring the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Harry Maguire and his good pal, Andy Robertson, now at Liverpool. “You'd be amazed at the number of players who play FIFA,” he notes.

“You'd be surprised at the amount of lads from Ireland who bring their PlayStations and Xboxes with them when we go away. Declan Rice, Harry Arter and Callum O'Dowda, for instance, they all play FIFA.”

By now, Meyler is five goals to the good in our Ireland vs Brazil friendly. There’s no sign of me scoring but I suspect he’s actually taking his foot off the gas. I explain I don’t have time to practise on FIFA because there’s always another new game for me to play. Meyler raises an eyebrow but says little.

Meyler insists he plays “just for fun” and couldn’t compete with the professional FIFA gamers but reckons he’s got the beating of everyone else in the Ireland squad. “Harry Arter's not bad but Harry just ends up beating himself, he just gets so annoyed,” he adds with a smile.

Being a player in real life does give him an edge, though, over regular FIFA gamers. “The good thing I do have, from playing professional football, I can tend to read situations better than others,” Meyler says.

“The only thing I'm missing is perfecting my player swapping. That's one of the big differences between pro players and casual players. They'll select the right player every time. You can probably snuff out attacks a lot easier. I'm about 80pc of the way there.”

Meyler is recently married with a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and admits his passion for FIFA sometimes gets in the way of family life. He recalls the time he was taking part in FUT Champions Weekend League and had to play 27 matches in a row one Saturday because his wife wanted to do something together on the Sunday. She said: "Just get all your games done today!”

He’s well aware his playing career won’t last forever and has already started looking to life after being on the pitch. “Most people know that I started my coaching badges not so long ago,” he says. “That's another avenue for me.” He concedes streaming could provide a  job for him but it’s hard to anticipate what will happen in years to come.

“I enjoy playing FIFA. It's great fun. There's 101 worse things I could be doing. It's that million-dollar question of, if only we knew where we'd be in eight or nine years ... I certainly don't know what I'll be doing. For me now, this is a hobby in my spare time.

“For anyone who plays in real life, however, you never want to stop. You see so many people retiring at a young age through injury, which is a shame. You wanna keep going. You look at someone like Teddy Sheringham or Ryan Giggs, who played until they're 40 because they love football. You might hit the stage in life at 34, 35 where your body can't take it any more and that's just the way it is. I wanna play for as long as I can. Once you hit that age of 35, 36, life's only just beginning.”

As the interview finishes, the score reads 9-0 and Brazil have been humbled by Ireland. But not everyone gets to be hammered by David Meyler, so our time has hardly been wasted. He’s led away to commentate and play some more at the EA event. Meanwhile, I make a mental note to practise a bit more before I challenge an international player to a friendly game of FIFA.

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