What Makes a FIFA Professional?

Niklas Luginsland: eSports Star Despite Brittle Bone Disease

Niklas Luginsland is an eSports professional for the German football club VfB Stuttgart. At the age of five, he visited a game of the VfB for the first time. The 22-year-old now has been a member of the club for almost 15 years. With his professional contract, he is fulfilling his great dream: becoming a professional athlete - despite his brittle bone disease. Together with Mario Viska, Austria's most successful and well-known FIFA player, he appeared at the ISPO Digitize Summit 2019.

The two FIFA pros Mario Viska and Niklas Luginsland

"VfB Stuttgart is my favorite club. And it always has been."

Success stories like those of Niklas and Mario show more and more clearly, what great potential eSports has. Whether a person has to struggle with physical limitations or not, he or she is welcome and can make it all the way to the top. The nice thing about it is that people, who would probably not have found each other otherwise, get to know each other. And this gives us hope, especially when you see that a likeable duo like the two champions on stage is formed.

At the beginning of the conversation, it already becomes clear, how passionate the two eSports professionals are about the topic. When they speak, the audience listens quietly. This is not only due to the self-confident appearance of the two professionals, but also to the many interesting and motivating anecdotes from their own biographies.

"VfB Stuttgart is my favorite club. And it always has been. I have been a member since 2004 and of course it was eSports that made it possible for me to become a part of this family and this great club," says Niklas.

Niklas Luginsland bei einer Runde FIFA
Niklas Luginsland during a FIFA match at the ISPO Digitize Summit

A true champion overcomes all obstacles

As long has he can remember, Niklas has loved football. But because he suffers from brittle bone disease, it was clear to him that the classic path to a professional football career would unfortunately never be open to him. In the first five years of his life, he suffered from more than 40 broken bones. Although the last fracture happened some years ago, the charismatic gamer will always be dependent on the wheelchair.

Despite the lack of possibilities in conventional sports, Niklas did not give up on his dream. He wanted to become a professional player for VfB Stuttgart. That's why he developed an alternative strategy and got into eSports. With a lot of training and dedication he made it and is now part of VfB Stuttgart.

"Of course, you have to practice every day. You have to constantly develop yourself and this includes, for example, the analysis of your own game. Where are the mistakes and what can I do better next time? But to really have a working construct, you have to be physically fit. In my case, this means a lot of physiotherapy and I definitely keep myself physically fit, but of course things like the family environment and mental attitudes have to be right as well," he explains. "At a certain level, it's similar to professional football. Small things can make the difference. The player who is mentally stronger often wins the match."

Niklas makes it clear: Those who want to be successful in eSports do not necessarily have it easier than professionals in conventional sports. But for him eSports has one main advantage:

"Regarding my physical limitations, there are of no barriers in eSports. In eSports, I can take the controller just like anyone else and just get started. And I can achieve just as much success."

"If my example can encourage other people to fight for their dreams, then I have already achieved a lot."

But for Niklas, that's not enough. He wants to show other people that despite physical limitations, you can make it to the top. His commitment takes place on several fronts, both online and offline. For example, he gives his social media community tips for their own sports careers and answers questions and comments from his followers. In addition, he also conducts talks with institutions that work on behalf of people with disabilities. In addition, he is in active exchange with other gamers and enterprises, in order to provide a better platform for the topic of inclusion.

"If my example can encourage other people to fight for their dreams, then I have already achieved a lot."

Mario Viska as a source of inspiration

On stage Niklas talks with Mario Viska. Mario is probably the most successful and best-known FIFA player in Austria and nine years older than Niklas. When Mario talks about how important it is to have a role model at the beginning of a career, he also asks Niklas who his role model was. With a smile on his face, Niklas answered: "Mario". This answer doesn't really surprise, because apart from the obvious physical differences, the two have a lot in common.

"Football is my passion and I always wanted to be a professional."

For Mario Viska it was already clear at a young age that one day he would make a living as a professional football player. In order to achieve this goal, he already worked hard in his earliest childhood and in a football club at the age of five. For a while it looked as if his way would lead directly into the Bundesliga, because he managed to become a player at the Austrian professional club Admira in his youth. But fate had other plans and as a teenager Mario had to realize that the conventional way to become a professional will unfortunately not work out for him.

Im Duell: Mario Viska und Niklas Luginsland
The two professionals Mario Viska and Niklas Luginsland delivered an exciting FIFA match at the ISPO Digitize Summit.

Never give up

Despite this setback, he did not let his dream come to an end and he continued to fight, this time on the digital path as a FIFA player. And his diligence paid off: After years of training and thousands of playing hours, in 2004 , it was clear to him that he could still realize his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

One success follows another

His success speaks for itself: since 2006, six consecutive German championships in team competition (a new record that hasn't been broken to date), five Austrian championships, three third places at the European Championships and one fourth place at the World Championships. In short: Mario is an undisputed part of the global eSports elite.

FIFA-Profis Mario Viska und Niklas Luginsland
FIFA pros Mario Viska and Niklas Luginsland stroll across the ISPO Digitize Summit grounds

Coaching for Good

Mario also proves that a true champion doesn't just think of himself. This year, he fulfilled every FIFA player's dream and enabled a lucky up-and-coming talent to be coached by a true professional. The personal meeting was bought by Tim546 at a charity auction by VIPrize, where a total of 600 Euro could be collected for the international children's aid organisation Right To Play. With the money, children in the Middle East, Africa and Asia are offered better opportunities in life through sport and play. That's how Mario stands up for their future.

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