At first glance, nothing seems out of the ordinary about this suburban house.
White curtains drape the windows, pizza boxes spill out from the recycling bin and weeds creep between the gaps in the garden path.
But take a closer look and you’ll discover something unique in this North London house – it’s home to a professional FIFA team.
AS Roma Fnatic has been ensconced at this address for the last six months, its inhabitants living, breathing, practicing and competing as they play the most popular virtual football game on the market FIFA.
As the name suggests, the team represents Italy’s Serie A team AS Roma, but is in fact largely driven by esports powerhouse Fnatic.
In 2018, the lucrative partnership decided to take the next step in professionalizing its approach, by creating the world’s first FIFA house.
“When you walk up to the front of the house, it doesn’t look like a team of gamers live here,” team manager Colin Johnson told CNN Sport, who is honest enough to admit that very occasionally the team has disturbed suburbia’s tranquility.
“We’ve had a few neighbors yelling at us a few times for being loud when we’re celebrating but for the most part we’re pretty nondescript when it comes to our activities and stuff around here.”
A gaming paradise
Aged between 19 and 24, the residents consist of three professional players, their coach, and the team manager.
Spanning three floors, this des res is kitted out with all the mod cons any self respecting millennial would desire. The living room is separated from the kitchen by a pool table and the patio doors open up to reveal a hot-tub in the astro-turfed back garden.
But it’s the outhouse at the end of the garden where the magic happens. A former games room has been renovated to create a high-tech esports paradise.
Each of the three players has their own station, equipped with dual-screens and multiple gaming consoles, allowing them to practice every day together under the guidance of live-in coach Enzo Serre.
The 20-year-old Serre believes their set-up gives the players an advantage over teams without such a facility.
“They are going to practice things they don’t really think about at home,” Serre told CNN Sport.
“FIFA is an individual game, they are all playing one versus one. But the fact that we live as a team and act as a team, I think it’s really making a difference compared to the other organizations.”
Esports houses are nothing new. Fnatic’s League of Legends team, for example, live and compete on a much larger scale in Berlin. Only now is its FIFA team benefiting in the same way.
In 2018, it became the very first Gfinity Elite Series FIFA champion after Conran Tobin, aka Rannerz, won the final. The team is now establishing itself as a force to be reckoned.
“Being in the same house means that we will improve much quicker together and we can learn not only from other players,” professional player Damian Augustyniak, told CNN Sport.
“I realized the things that I wasn’t realizing before, what went wrong, what went right, and what should I improve on in my game.”
Like his teammates, Augustyniak, nicknamed Damie, started his career from his bedroom – playing esports recreationally before realizing he was that much better than his opposition.
The house has given him the opportunity to nurture his skills in an environment which is becoming increasingly more professional.
‘I’m like the house dad’
But living, training and competing together in the same house can be tough at times.
“Sometimes I can feel burnt out,” said Polish-born Augustyniak. “You want to just do something else, or sometimes even be with some someone else.”
The antidote to any potential burnout is a demanding schedule set out for the players by team manager Johnson.
It’s a schedule that involves visits to a local gym three days a week, mentality coaching and regular FIFA training.
Johnson, nicknamed Cojo, moved to London a month before the rest of the team to setup the house and has a lot more responsibility than most 24-year-olds.
On top of staying across the finances, the American makes sure the house is stocked with food and also organizes activities to help the team get away from their gaming screens – whether that be a trip to the cinema or a simple night in front of the television.
“I’m like the house dad or house mum,” he said describing his role, which also includes managing two other esports teams.
“We can kind of cater to their [players] every need and their every want when it comes to competing and making sure that the only thing that they really have to worry about is winning FIFA games.”
Johnson admits that being in a position of authority around people of a similar age can be a struggle but his players are grateful for the role he plays.
“I’m 19, I’m not really like an adult so it’s really nice to have someone who’s cooking sometimes and someone who’s taking care of you even though you’re living with other players well,” said Swedish-born player Simon Nystedt, whose gamer tag is Zimme.
As the youngest member of the house, Nystedt has found moving away from his family difficult at times but has been able to rely on his teammates for support.
“It’s just nice for me because I always have someone to talk to when I’m feeling down, not feeling well. And also just having fun together is really important,” he said.
Work vs. play
Striking the balance between having fun and being productive is down to head coach Serre.
He acknowledges the difficulties that come with living with people you work with but says the gaming room being separate from the house goes someway in remedying that.
“We can be watching a [television] show and right after we’re going to play a game and be in a serious mindset,” he said.
“I think the setup of the house really helps them make the difference […] but it’s not as good as if we had an office.”
But with the team enjoying so much success already, it looks like the concept is here to stay.
Watch the video at the top of the page for CNN’s tour of the world’s first FIFA house