PSV's FIFA PlayStation champion Stefano Pinna reveals the importance of mental strength in esports and competing without FIFA points

Goal spoke with the PSV pro to see how his season is going, where he ranks himself amongst the best and why Xbox players seem to have the advantage.

It has been quite the year for PSV Eindhoven’s FIFA esports pro, Stefano Pinna.

The Belgian announced himself on the world stage last year when he defeated Marcus ‘Marcuzo’ Jorgensen in the PlayStation final of the FIFA eWorld Cup, though he wasn’t able to topple the giant that is Mossad ‘MSdossary’ Aldossary in the Grand Final.

Still, Pinna has grown a lot since then and has continued to impress this season – he currently sits in second place on the PlayStation side of the FIFA Global Series Rankings and earlier this year won a cross-console final for the first time in his career.

Despite his recent successes, Pinna still remembers the eWorld Cup final clearly, telling Goal: “Before the final against MSdossary, I knew it was going to be difficult because I’ve never played on Xbox so I had to finish it on my home console, but he is also very good on PlayStation.

“I just wanted to win it, nobody wants to be the second best player in the world, you want to be first of course. After the game I was so disappointed, it was a lot of money to lose out on and everything was on the line. But after a couple of days, I was happy that I made it all the way through to the final, I was the best PlayStation player in the world. In the end, I have mixed feelings about what was a difficult day for me.”

Despit the defeat, the PSV man has a lot of admiration for his opponent that day as well as the current world number-one Donovan ‘F2Tekkz’ Hunt, conceding that there is a gulf in class between the Xbox and PlayStation divisions.

“To be honest, there’s a big difference between the highest level of Xbox players and the highest level of PlayStation players. MSdossary and Tekkz are a different level this year, even compared to say me and Nicolas99. It’s very hard to take on either of those two.

“I think Xbox guys play differently too. Most players on PlayStation like possession and parking the bus but on the Xbox side, more of their players like to just attack and score as much as possible. Playing in a cross-console is always amazing – being able to face someone like Tekkz or MSdossary is just incredible. That’s why this year, console quarter-finals and semi-finals are not enough for me.”

That final sentence explains why the Belgian was so gutted after crashing out in the quarter-finals of last month’s FUT Champions Cup hosted by ELEAGUE.

After coming close so many times, including a 3rd/4th place finish in the January FUT Champions Cup, it was a huge relief for Pinna to finally win a tournament when he defeated Michael ‘MegaBit’ Bittner in the grand final of the February Gfinity FIFA Series.

But like any true competitor, he wants more. Winning at a FUT Champions Cup or even the eWorld Cup is his true aim: “If I play to my best level, then I will definitely go far in tournaments. I just need to be more consistent. I always get to the semi-finals but I need to win more tournaments. I want to win more cross-console finals, then I can call myself good.

“In the past in finals, I was too afraid to attack in case I lost the ball, I didn’t shoot. So after that game against MSdossary, I’ve practiced more on the Xbox and it paid off when I won a cross-console final against Megabit and that was a great feeling. Just getting used to the Xbox and not being afraid, those were the two major things I’ve worked on.”

Getting over that fear was an essential step for Pinna, who understands more than most that being strong mentally is crucial to competing at the highest level.

That’s why the PSV player recently announced that he is taking a break from online qualifiers for a couple of weeks because he was struggling to focus on his matches. That way he will feel refreshed for the FUT Champions Cup in Singapore and the rest of the tournaments he will undoubtedly qualify for this year. 

“If you want to be consistent and be the best, you have to keep focused on the game. Just try to win the game, you don’t need to rage if you’re losing.

“It’s hard to be consistent in this game but I think it’s possible when you’re in a good mind set and playing good FIFA. I think mentally I’m very good, especially at offline tournaments so I think that’s why I’ve been one of the most consistent guys I’d say.”

And while Pinna is fully focused on this season, there will undoubtedly be some fear in the back of his mind concerning the loot box law change in Belgium next year.

The change means that FIFA players won’t be able to purchase packs with FIFA points next year, leaving Pinna and other Belgians with a potential disadvantage in online qualifiers.

“At the moment it’s difficult to say anything because I don’t what to expect next year.” said Pinna. “It’s weird that’s it’s only in Belgium and not in other countries but I will just wait and see and hopefully I can do something next year to buy FIFA Points otherwise it’s going to be very, very difficult.

“It would be a big disadvantage for sure, maybe I’ll need to move to the Netherlands next year because it’ll be very difficult otherwise.

“I’m not really thinking about it at the moment though. I always just want to perform, not just because the FIFA Points changes, I always want to do well and show the world what I can do. FIFA Points or not, there’s always something you can do.”

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