Tekkz didn’t watch “an ounce” of FC Pro before Global Qualifier cover image

Tekkz didn’t watch “an ounce” of FC Pro before Global Qualifier

Tekkz speaks to esports.gg at the FC Pro Global Qualifier.

Donovan "Tekkz" Hunt is one of the stand out stars of the EA SPORTS FC pro scene. He surprised the world back in 2018, winning the FUT 18 Champions Cup in Barcelona as a total unknown.

This shock victory kicked off a strong career that has so far included wins in the eClub World Cup, the Nations cup and the Champions League invitational. He has played for prestigious organisations like FNATIC, and now Manchester City.

He has made the best possible start to his FC Pro career following the games transition, going undefeated at the FC Pro Open Global Qualifier in London.

esports.gg spoke to Tekkz in London after he booked his place in the FC Pro Open regular season.

Photo: EA/Joe Brady
Photo: EA/Joe Brady

Tekkz "buzzing" with his performance

Tekkz went 5-0 in the Swiss bracket Group Stage, including a 5:3 win against his Manchester City counterpart Matias. He followed this dominance up with a 4:0 win against JH7 and a 6:4 win against NedissaT14 in the playoff stage.

"I'm buzzing with my performance. It's been a while since I felt really good at an event. And I felt like everyone I played, I was better than them. I've been playing well in practice, I've been stressing for a while the last whole week saying I just want to deliver it in the event. So obviously we get to the event and I start playing well. So I'm buzzing with my performance to be honest"

Tekkz referenced that it has been a while since he felt good at an event. His FIFA 23 season ended with disappointment, with reasonably early eliminations in the FIFAe World Cup and the FIFAe Club World cup in July.

What was different about this event that made Tekkz feel so much better?

"I'd put it down to this, right? When I lost in the World Cup knockouts last year, I watched so much of my opponent, and I got a bit scared going into the game. I was a bit nervous. So I haven't watched an ounce of FC Pro this year. I've not watched one minute of FC Pro, and I've just sort of just done what I wanted to do.

"I just don't copy everyone else and just do what I do. And, if I believe in what I'm doing, then I'd just be more confident when I am playing the games."

Photo: Man City
Photo: Man City

Some unique player selections help separate Tekkz from the crowd

Tekkz admitting he hasn't watched any other professional gameplay in the lead up to the qualifier is believable looking at his draft. Tekkz used a handful of players that did not feature in other squads and were considered firmly off meta.

"Player-wise, I'm a little bit unique. Because as I said, I haven't really watched anything. I've sort of brought my own style a little bit.

"So for example I was the only person using trailblazer at Hansen. I was just finessing with Hanson, she's the only one with the play style but no one else used her. It was just me. So I just believed in what I was practicing and how I was practicing and how I was scoring goals and it worked in the event."

Another one of Tekkz unique picks was Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson. Most drafts featured Ferland Mendy.

"I was using Mendy in practice. But, he just kept losing 50-50s. I'd put a tackle in, he'd give the ball back to my opponent. So I was like, OK, I need a new left back. So Robertson, I used him in Champs for my [Road to Glory]. And.. he was actually good! So I thought, why not? I'll just put him in the team and see how he does. And then in practice, he was perfect. He's slower than Mendy. I was getting laughed at for using Robertson, but he did the job."

Draft system scepticism

One of the quirks of the FC Pro Qualifier was the new draft system. Based off current market rates, players have a set budget from which to build a team of players for the event. This adds an extra level of tactical nuance to the esport, as you can't just rely on the 11 best cards. Choices have to be made.

Tekkz was initially not a fan of the new Draft System, but has warmed up to it during the event.

"You know what? I hated it at the start. When I first saw it I was out shopping. I get a message in the group chat saying there's a new draft system. Honestly, hands on head, I was fuming. But now that we've used it, as long as with the budget, you can get some good players, like an Mbappe or Hansen. I don't mind it as such. But anything less than a certain amount, I won't be happy with."

The first draft budget was sizable, but there could be the possibility of much smaller budgets in the future. Does Tekkz see them setting lower budgets of, say, 100k?

"Yeah, I can see them doing it. Do I want them to do it? No, I desperately don't want them to do it. I don't want to sit there using a 100k team. I don't want to do that. If you're a 100k team, it's difficult to show your skills. I just want to have some good players."

Do lower rated players require more skill to use?

Some would argue that using lower rated players would raise the skill ceiling in FC Pro matches. Players with lower stats would require you to create higher quality chances. There would be less margin for error with every move. Tekkz says you can see it both ways.

"You can look at it two ways, to be honest. The best player with the best cards, the best player will come out on top. The best players with worse cards, like a 100k team, you can create so many chances because your guys are not as good but you might miss them.

"Your opponent creates one chance and he just scores it, because it would just be a bit more random from the players. I think the skill gap lowers massively. As for a casual viewer, it's more exciting probably. But as a player, I hate it."

Do subs matter in the FC Pro draft?

One of the common themes through the Global Qualifier was how few substitutions were used. Tekkz explains that substitutions are more to round out the budget than be game changers.

"For me it's more of a round out the budget job and just get effective subs. So in my see out the game formation, 4-1-4-1 I put my Defensive Mid on an instruction called Deep Lying Playmaker. And he just comes and gets the ball. I just fire a lot of through balls to the left wing and right wing.

"So I picked Trent [Alexander-Arnold] because he's got a playstyle plus called long ball pass. And it worked. So you've got to be smart with your sub picks. But it was more of a round out of the budget thing."

Besides Trent Alexander Arnold, Tekkz only used one other substitute player the entire tournament, Son. He came on when Tekkz was chasing the game in extra time against NedissaT14. Substitutes do not appear to currently be a priority at the FC Pro level.

Tekkz enjoying 9 minute halves

One of the other changes that has arrived with FC Pro is the removal of multi-leg ties. Instead, single leg matches with much longer 9 minute halves were used instead. This changes the dynamic of the game and removes the opportunity to make large squad or tactical changes in response to an opponent.

Tekkz, traditionally a player who excels in the second leg has enjoyed the new format more than he expected.

Photo: Man City
Photo: Man City

"You know what, I love it. It's weird because typically I'm a guy that's better in the second leg. The first leg I'm a bit poor, then second leg I sort of grow into it.

"So I was like, hmm, it might not favour me. But the reason I like it is once you're on top in the matchup, say I'm on top in the first leg of a two-legged game, second leg there's a regroup period. Then, you've got to get back to the same level next game. But in a one-legged game, the minute you're sort of on top, it's hard for the opponent to switch it and then get on top, so I prefer it to be honest."

No pressure even when chasing a lead in the new format

Even without the security of a second leg, Tekkz never felt worried even when he was behind in matches.

"I went 2-0 down in my second Swiss game and I was so calm because I knew that there's so much time left. It wasn't an issue where I thought it's only one leg, I'm not going to get it back, I just thought it was calm, I enjoyed it. Even in the game where I was 4-3 down and scoring in the last minute to equalise.

"If there's 10 minutes left and I've got much more belief that I'm going to score than if there was 10 minutes left in a two leg game, or like 20 minutes left in a two leg game. I don't know why, I'm just comfy with it."

Manchester City coach credited for set piece improvement

One of the visible differences in Tekkz's gameplay was his success with set pieces. He was far more successful from free kicks and corners than we've seen in previous tournaments. He gives credit to his new coach at Manchester City for the improvement.

"That's my coach. I've never really been a set piece guy. I've never scored, ever, ever scored set pieces. But I've got a new coach. What we do, we go into games against each other and I just practice set pieces for hours. Because I feel like the margins, margins are so important. Headers and goals like that. I've never really scored them.

"All my goals are usually good. Like I score good goals, but good goals don't win you games. So I needed to add in a bit of both and I managed to do that this time. 

Tekkz used to handling the pressure

While Tekkz was an unknown quantity when he burst onto the scene in Barcelona, now he is a household name in the world of FC Pro. After his unbeaten run in London, how he he handling the pressure heading into the next stage of the competition?

"Yeah, going 7-0 adds pressure. But I feel pressure even if I scrape through three and two, so it doesn't really affect me. I just feel pressure whenever I compete. So whether I'm unbeaten or scraping through, I don't really care.

"But if I scrape through and I was playing bad, then I match one of the best players. I'd go into that game nervous, thinking, oh just don't batter me blah blah.  But now that I'm playing well, I'll be way more confident. It's just a confidence thing, but I always feel pressure."

Support of Manchester City helping motivate Tekkz

As well as the transition from FIFA 23 to EA FC 24, Tekkz has also changed teams ahead of the FC Pro season. FNATIC chose to withdraw from the esport, leaving gargantuan football brand Manchester City free to snap up the 22-year-old.

Tekkz is feeling a new level of motivation playing for one of the biggest names in both football and football esports.

Photo: Man City
Photo: Man City

"I've been competing now for like five years and I never really had a team behind me. They come with me to the events and want me to do well and want the best for me. So the last few years I've sort of been going by myself.

"This tournament I'm playing, I want to do well for myself, but I want to do well for everyone with me and everyone who supported me. City are just putting a team in place for me and it's motivated me a little bit.

"For me [having a team behind me] is massively keeping me motivated. I'm more motivated this year than I have been for years. I see Edu and Matty in Discord all day playing and I'm thinking I'm not going to let them guys play more than me so I need to play. You see your teammates playing and it makes you want to play!"

Tekkz also credited the improvements and general gameplay that has come with FC 24 in a rekindling of his passion.

"I've been playing more than I've played ever really these last few weeks. And that's just an enjoyment thing. If I don't enjoy it, I don't really play. But I've been enjoying it, so I've been playing. I've enjoyed the game so far."

Stepovers are a key skill to reach a new level

The FC Pro Global Qualifier was watched by hundreds of thousands of fans, to a total of over 2 million hours. Many will come away from the event wanting to emulate the likes of Tekkz. What does the Manchester City man think casual players should focus on in their next FUT Champs matches?

"Just learn the meta. Whether that is more finesse shots, 'Trivelas' or stepovers. Stepovers, they are a key thing.  If you get stepovers going, and instead of dribbling around the pitch, you just stepover around the pitch. I don't know, it just gets you flowing a little bit more. So now if you get your stepovers better, it'll be way better."

What has changed the most about Tekkz between Barcelona and now?

Tekkz has grown up in the spotlight of esports. From his successful social media presence, to his countless victories in the FIFA and now FC Pro esports scene the world has watched him develop step by step over his career.

Photo: EA SPORTS
Photo: EA SPORTS

But, looking back to that Barcelona victory in 2018, what has changed the most about Tekkz from then to now?

"I was a scared little boy back then, I was so scared. I was scared of everything. I didn't feel the pressure. I feel the pressure now, but I didn't really feel pressure at that tournament. I was more scared for the interviews after, but now I don't mind the interviews and I'm more scared for the playing.

"It's just a big transition. I'm still finding stuff about who I am now still. As I was saying in the World Cup last year, I was scared because I was watching my opponents too much and I realised, hey, I need to focus on myself because that's what I used to do. So yeah, I'm still learning about myself. I was more scared back then in life."

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