DC United’s KingCJ0 hopes to set the standards for future Black gamers

A college video gamer is an online star representing soccer team D.C. United but he also wants to up the standards for future Black gamers, WTOP's Gigi Barnett reports.

After a day of attending college classes and studying for his finance degree, Mohamed Alioune Diop returns to his apartment to begin his training session. Armed with video of his last game, the 21-year old reviews all the plays, discusses new strategies with his coaches and heads to practice to prepare for the next tournament.

But Diop is not your typical athlete; he is a professional video game player, playing the popular FIFA soccer video game competitively, representing D.C. United.

Mohamed Diop, known as KingCJ0, represents D.C. United in the eMLS FIFA video game league. (Courtesy D.C. United)

“It is truly an honor.” Diop said. “Truly an honor to represent the biggest club in MLS.”

Diop, who has only been living in the U.S. for three years, is a full-time college junior. Once he’s done hitting the books during the day, he turns on his PlayStation 5 and assumes the gamer persona — KingCJ0. It’s a nod to his 6-foot-7 frame (King), the City of Johannesburg (CJ) where he grew up, and his birth year 2000.

His creative roster — playing with D.C. United’s marble away kit — includes several known talents in the world’s game, but Diop said it must have Brazilian legend Ronaldo.

Previously, his D.C. United player of choice was Virginia native Kevin Paredes. Since Paredes signed with German side Wolfsburg, Diop said veteran goalkeeper Bill Hamid is his Black and Red star of choice.

“He’s my favorite player,” Diop said. “The goalkeeper; very authoritative. The best you can have with experience for days, and carries the whole dressing room. So he’s my favorite player.”

Diop began gaming out of necessity; his parents did not want him getting distracted at school playing soccer, so he began playing games as a hobby. Soon, the competitive feeling he had on the field translated to his gaming controller, making Diop interested in learning how he can make gaming his profession. He entered his first tournament at 16 years old and won $1,000.

“I’m like, ‘Wow, this is good,'” Diop said. “I like the feeling. I like the competitiveness. So I decided to take it to the next level and keep on training, keep on getting better until it led to me moving to the U.S. for studies. D.C. United reaching out, and the rest was history,”

Ups and downs of egaming

Egaming, also known as esports or electronic sports, is video game playing in a competitive format. Professional players compete as individuals or as part of a team.

The popularity of video game content in general over the past decade, including the use of streaming platforms, such as Twitch, has grown immensely. People can now record their online gameplay while chatting with other gamers. Its growing popularity led ESPN and other sports networks to begin broadcasting video game tournaments to attract a younger audience.

The best gamers have turned their gaming wins into financial success, gaining sponsors and playing in tournaments for large sums of prize money.

In 2019, in a sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City, then 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdor won $3 million after winning the Fortnite World Cup, a record at the time.

While eMLS is the largest FIFA video game league in the North America, Diop said the prize money is not as high as some other gaming tournaments. A recent tournament awarded prizes between $2,000 to $7,500. It the kind of money that’s enough to cover Diop’s schools expenses, which remains a priority for him, so winning a tournament can become “a good day in the office.”

In the past, playing video games has been criticized for allegedly creating a lazier population. It has also been linked to exposing children to violent content at an early age. Recently, it has garnered attention because of players using racist, vile comments during gameplay. Viewers of livestreams have also committed similar actions on live chats, forcing platforms to ban accounts for misbehavior.

Recently, Diop posted a Twitter thread on receiving racist comments in the chat during a recent eMLS tournament game. The tweet receive a lot of attention, with eMLS announcing that those viewers’ accounts have been banned from future streams.

As part of the gaming community where there are a small number of Black people playing professionally, Diop said it was important to speak out. There are only three Black players in eMLS, including Diop and his older brother, Papa Macissé.

“Being a minority in the league, I had to speak up and say the reality of the situation, which was that discrimination and racism shouldn’t be tolerated in any space, whether it is in gaming or the world,” Diop said. “And that’s the message that I wanted to put out.”

“I needed everyone to hear my side of the story, and that I do not condone that at all. If it happens to me or to anybody else, I will indeed speak up.”

The 21-year-old said that he cherishes his presence in the league as he’s become important for young Black players interested in entering the space who see someone that looks like them.

“I want to represent well,” Diop said. “I want to do well, to show people that look just like me that it is possible. It is something you can do. It is something that you can achieve.”

Completed goals, future aspirations

Diop has continued having success, winning the FIFA 21 North America Global Series Playoffs Champion in January. Since joining D.C. United in 2020, he qualified for the FIFAe World Cup and was called up by the U.S. national team.

Understanding his place as a Black gamer, Diop said he knows he is an example for new players who want to get into the space and compete against him. However, when asked what advice he would give young gamer looking to enter the space, Diop was direct: “Have a backup plan.”

“Don’t put all your eggs into one basket because more times than not, it might come back to bite you,” he said. “So, always have your backup and focus on school if that’s what you want and that’s what you like. And when you have that spare time, you can go on FIFA and keep perfecting your craft. One doesn’t stop the other; I am the physical proof of that.”

Going forward, Diop has big dreams, including receiving another call-up to the U.S. national team and winning an eMLS Cup title for D.C. United. With esports becoming more established and organizations creating dedicated arenas for fans to cheer on their team’s players, Diop said he hopes to one day entertain Black and Red supporters in person.

“You want to have a fan base behind you when it doesn’t go the way you want. They’ll pick you up, and they’ll push you up. And if you win, they’ll cheer you up,” Diop said.

“It’s that type of union you want. It’s that type of energy you want. I just hope that one day, maybe we’re gonna have a D.C. United gaming arena, where they’re going to watch me play in the eMLS but you never know.”

Mohamed Alioune Diop is a professional video game player, playing the popular FIFA soccer video game competitively, representing D.C. United. (Courtesy D.C. United)
José Umaña

José Umaña is a digital editor for WTOP. He’s been working as a journalist for almost a decade, covering local news, education and sports. His work has appeared in The Prince George’s Sentinel, The Montgomery Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, PressBox and The Diamondback.

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