Aged 31, Imad Mihoubi is the new Coach of AS Monaco Esports. Founder of Neo eSports in 2016, this video game enthusiast, and one who is, in particular, a fan of of football, has trained many professional players on FIFA, but has also known, for many years, the three players who form the PES roster for AS Monaco Esports: Kilzyou, Lotfi and Usmakabyle. Moreover, it is on this game that the player who calls himself “ID7Kun” on social networks has developed his fame, notably by reproducing many real goals on simulation. Here is an interview to learn more about our new coach.
What are your earliest memories of video games?
I have always been passionate about video games. I was never a big geek, but to repeat the story, I’ve been a fan since Super Nintendo. My uncle had this console, and I watched him play. It was a bit like Twitch before its time! I remember the games, it was Donkey Kong Country and Street Fighter II. Good memories like that will be remembered for life.
Did your passion for soccer games develop next?
I discovered International Superstar Soccer, the ancestor of Pro Evolution Soccer. PES is really the game that made me buy all the consoles. As soon as it comes out, every year or on a Nextgen (name given to new generation consoles, note), I adapt to that new version. Next to that, in terms of the games that can get me out of a daily e-football routine, there is The Last Of Us, which is really my favorite because I had even given up on PES a bit but then it was time to get back to it.
Speaking more generally about Esport, how did you get into this environment?
It was in 2016, when I launched my Neo eSports team, although I myself was a competitor before that in PES. So I have this activity of president of the team and alongside that, I am also a social media manager and content creator.
We know you in particular for your famous videos where you reproduce real goals on PES. How did this idea come about originally?
I saw a lot of fairly redundant content happening: those that are filmed while playing, or tutorials, for example. Me, I really like the creative aspect and the realistic aspect of PES which has been on a very good trajectory since 2015. I told myself that the game was being under exploited in this respect. No one knows that in PES there is all the entertainment one can find in real football. This history of remakes began in 2016, when Johan Cruyff passed away. I paid tribute to him by reproducing two of his famous goals, and I really liked the idea because it can reach an audience that is not necessarily specialized in video games. Whoever watches the remake remembers their memories of those goals. And then one day, while sitting in my room, someone called to tell me that it just came was featured in L’Equipe. I thought I was being trolled and then I noticed that my views had increased considerably. Seeing that people liked it, I continued to make them. I like doing it because it puts me back into a context that enhances my love for football.
How does the creation of a goal happen?
By dint of doing it, I know the mechanics of the game and what some players are capable of doing. Now, it’s true that I’m a little faster than before, but the time to create a goal depends on a lot of things, whether the ball hits the bar or not for example. Most of the work is mostly preparation, because I manipulate the game to make it realistic. I have someone in South America who does the boots for me, another person in Russia who is an excellent face-maker (making realistic faces in the game), we can also change all the LED panels around the pitch … There are a lot of possibilities to make things as realistic as possible.
Is there a remake you’re most proud of?
Riyad Mahrez’s against Nigeria, in the semifinals of CAN 2019. I am of Algerian descent. That free kick, in the last minute, I felt he was going to score it. He did, and my brother then suggested that I go and celebrate the event downstairs in the house where a few people had already gathered. I tell him no, because I want to make a remake of the goal. It was a way for me to celebrate the team’s qualification for the finals. It was my first big hit, as Bleacher Report and 4-3-3 picked up the video. Just talking about it gives me chills.
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So far, we’ve talked a lot about PES. Are you following the FIFA community, too?
I have always been a PES player, but when I created my team, I couldn’t just stick to PES. FIFA offers a more developed circuit, so at Neo eSports, we recruited players for this game, such as Coco-V-Bastos or Mino7x who are now professionals. And then there was also Kilzyou and Usmakabyle, who did a bit of both. Since the inception of the e-LEAGUE 1, Neo eSports has always had a representative, whether in winter or spring. I’m used to having FIFA players in recent years.
And the two games, their gameplay, their modes of play, what is your opinion?
There are a lot more people on FIFA than on PES, and the difference is made here. People buy FIFA. When we still talk about the famous PES 6, it’s been 15 years already! People don’t realize time flies. The delusions about Adriano are good, but let’s live in the moment. PES is working hard to catch up, even if they still have a way to go. The problem with PES is really the content and the ergonomics of the game, but the gameplay is superb. It’s the other way around for FIFA: I don’t really buy into the gameplay, but for example, in modes like “Pro Club” you get on Discord with your friends and have a blast. Honestly, if you combined the gameplay from PES and the content from FIFA, you would have the best football game.
Let’s look back at your arrival at AS Monaco Esports. How did the first contacts go?
It was Simon Rémoussin, Head of AS Monaco Esports, who contacted me on Twitter. He was interested in my profile and we talked a lot. He wanted to know more about me, about my profile, my mindset, my expertise. I have always followed AS Monaco Esports because the players I trained at Neo Esport have become professionals there. When I was offered this project, which I find great, I didn’t hesitate because I’m starting to be limited a bit. We are only a group of players, and we cannot afford to compete without the support and financial means of a professional club. We specialize in e-Foot, and managing my former players in a team as prestigious as AS Monaco Esports is a pleasure. It’s all coming full circle.
What will be your future role within the Club?
My mission will be to support the players in order to put them in the best possible condition, provide them with moral support and to be a presence during in-person competitions. Creating this link between the club and the players will allow them to be in the best condition to perform. I will really be there to allow them to flourish and to allow them to think only of their performance itself, removing all extraneous concern for them.
What does joining AS Monaco Esports mean to you?
It’s an exceptional moment as I have always been a fan of Esport — I started in PES as a competitor and then saw Esport take an interesting turn afterwards. When I had Kilzyou, Lotfi and Usmakabyle with me at Neo eSports, I really had a fantastic roster. For me, it’s a kind of recognition for the work that has been done. I know them well. We started off small, we played small tournaments in our city, and a few years later, here we are. “From the bottom to the top”, as they say.
How did your first match go?
Kilzyou and Usmakabyle were my teammates, we were on the PES 95 team. We were doing tournaments together, and Lotfi joined us later. Before being their manager, I was really their teammate, especially with Kilzyou and Usmakabyle. It was from PES 2016 that I had more and more managerial tasks, and I really liked this role because I didn’t have the time to compete or spend time on the game.
And about these three players Lotfi, Kilzyou and Usmakabyle, what more can you tell us?
They are really top talents. On PES 2016, they won everything, notably Usmakabyle who was world champion. The relationship I have with them is really special. Kilzyou, I knew him when he was 13. He was very small, with his mother. Lotfi, as I said just before, arrived a bit later but he integrated well right away. A real relationship has been established, we all live next door to each other and we chat every day. This proximity is very important. The family spirit means that the players will then fight for the jersey and for each other. They don’t have to be there just to play. Communication is really the key word. They are like my little cousins.
How did they react when you told them you were their coach again?
They were happy. It touched me that they were happy that I could join them. The time invested has paid off, whether for me or for them. No matter what happens, there are always bright spots among the darkness. When I think back to the tournaments we had at the time and the tournaments we are going to do now, together, at AS Monaco Esports…
To conclude, then — what are your objectives with the Club?
We wish to have a good level of continuity, to once again go on to seek victory in the end. This is a criterion that we always had at Neo eSports, with the incredible level of the players. This is the ultimate goal, and we know it is within our grasp. They have already proven it.