Al-Hilal strengthen squad as Saudi Pro League title hopes become more distant

RIYADH: Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Ronaldinho. And Musaed Al-Dossary.

When, at only 18, the Saudi gamer won the 2018 FIFAe World Cup, he could never have imagined that in a few short years he would be rubbing shoulders with the players that he controlled on screen from his console.

At the recent 2021 Globe Soccer Awards, held in Dubai, the man who plays under the moniker MsDossary7, found himself going head-to-head with star Italian defender and recent Euro 2020 winner Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus.

Al-Dossary, up for an award himself, said: “Before the event, I had the chance to play Bonucci on a game of FIFA, it was something really great. Thankfully, I went to the event, and I won.”

Currently playing for Team Falcons, he walked away with the esports player of the year award by Zone, the gaming ecosystem which had set up the clash with the legendary Italian center-back.

“It was great, a great experience to see how a tough defender plays FIFA. We played a no-rules game, so offsides, tough tackling is all allowed, which is something he loves. I was playing with Italy, and he was playing with Juventus. I won 2-1, it was close because he was an expert in tackling, playing in no rules,” Al-Dossary added.

After a tough couple of years disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Globe Soccer prize meant a great deal to Saudi Arabia’s star player.

He said: “After a lot of sacrifice and a lot of hard work that you put into a year, to get the award after everything means a lot. What means even more for me, is that when you see a global event with the best players in the world, Mbappe, Lewandowski, Ronaldinho, and then you see a Saudi guy who wants to be one of the best, that’s not just something for me, but for all Saudis.”

After becoming FIFAe World Cup winner in 2018, Al-Dossary was runner-up the following year, but due to the pandemic, the tournament was cancelled in the last two years.

Still, Saudi domestic titles, two international championships, and leading the Kingdom’s national team to the top of the Middle East and Africa qualifying group for the FIFAe Nations Series 2022, the world governing body’s flagship gaming event, meant 2021 was another year of accomplishment for Al-Dossary.

“For now, we are top of the table, but there are four months to go. The main thing, the focus for us, is to stay at the top of the table and to qualify,” he added.

Al-Dossary and his team-mates Yasser Al-Harthi, and Meshaal Al-Hubishi will contest the second round of qualifiers on Jan. 27 and 28.

The end of last year proved a busy time for Al-Dossary, who alongside playing the qualifiers and attending the Globe Soccer Awards, also spent some time at the Red Bull Athlete Performance Center on the outskirts of Salzburg as part of a series of sporting and gaming initiatives by the Austrian firm.

“It was really great to see (the center), getting expertise for everything. Mentality, food-wise, training-wise. I want to thank Red Bull for having me there, to train and to check the facilities and to see how the best athletes in the world train. It was a unique experience,” he said.

And he was particularly grateful for the backing he received from gaming officials in the Kingdom. “The Saudi Esports Federation is great, and to be honest, they’re supportive when you win or even when you lose, they are the first to reach out.”

He noted that it would only be a matter of time before Saudi Arabia started holding some of the world’s biggest esports events and wearing the Kingdom’s colors remained his biggest source of pride.

“To represent my country, it feels really great, and words cannot describe it to be honest. Unless you have tried it, you cannot describe it in a few words, it’s a really great thing but a huge responsibility as well.

“So, I mean, the only thing that is making me play until now, because I’ve been playing for six years now full-time, is that I need to take Saudi to a great place in esports. And with the support I have from my government, from the Saudi fans, I need to give back to them,” Al-Dossary added.

Aged 21, a long career awaits MsDossary7, and his ambitions, individually and collectively, remain as they always have been. Rivals who have eyes on the next FIFAe World Cup should beware.

He said: “The big targets are still the same as every year, to win a major championship, hopefully a world championship taking place this year and to be out there, and to defend the title I love the most.”

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