A student has been offered a place at the University of California after he wrote an application essay on his favourite subject -- Football Manager.
Daniel Gamboa, born and raised in the Los Angeles suburb of La Crescenta, suppressed his inner tactician by submitting 347 words on how the popular game inspired him to study global affairs.
The 18-year-old was originally out of essay ideas until it dawned on him (thanks to his best friend) that the somewhat niche subject of Football Manager was a perfect way of expressing himself.
That friend was tired of Daniel ranting about his Spurs save and suggested that he redirect his excitement towards an unfinished essay.
Slowly but surely, the greatest university piece of all time was born.
The teenager, who suffers from cerebral palsy - a condition that meant he could never get involved in football the same way as his peers - had always resented that fact until he discovered Football Manager.
"I've always loved football, but I could never play it myself," Daniel explains to SPORTbible.
"I have a condition called cerebral palsy: the long and short of it is that my muscles are weak and I can't walk unassisted. So I could never get involved in football the same way my peers could, and I definitely resented it.
"I let my envy hold me back for a long time but Football Manager gave me an outlet where I could be just as great as my school's finest athlete."
In a managerial role, his handicap didn't matter. Daniel lifted an unprecedented treble with Tottenham - the ultimate achievement in the virtual world.
"That was my equivalent of scoring a hat trick or saving a decisive penalty. I could succeed at and even redefine the beautiful game without ever even touching a ball."
For the University of California application, the four written prompts help a student stand out from the applicant pool.
Daniel had already written about his experiences in student government, disability and charity work - but so had thousands of other hopefuls.
It soon dawned on him that Football Manager would be a perfect subject to stand out from the crowd.
"It's a niche interest here in the States, and my faithful viewership of Tifo Football meant that I could connect the game to global politics and diplomacy." explains Daniel.
"I had the elements of a successful essay, but it took literal weeks of editing. Early drafts had me namedropping my wonderkids and rambling about my asymmetrical 4-1-4-1 that featured a segundo volante making runs into the box from deep.
"I realized (reluctantly) that many of the game's nuances would be lost on admissions officers so I wrote about how my desire to learn had flamed out by sophomore year, and how the Football Manager rabbit hole had reignited it.
"That prompted me to join my school's debate team, with a specific focus on international relations. As an extemporaneous speaker, I tackled subjects like sportswashing in the Gulf States and corruption among Eastern Europe's oligarchs-all of which I'd only ever heard about thanks to FM.
"Admissions officers love hearing about personal growth-on an intellectual level, I owed most of it to Football Manager. With the ongoing pandemic, standardized testing was thrown out by most schools, and our essays were given greater weight: it's a distinct possibility that this essay tipped the scales and got me into Berkeley."
So, what did the application essay look like?
You can read Daniel's masterpiece on Football Manager below:
My peers consider me a scholar, but that's a misnomer. I was born with a passion for learning, but that flame faded with time. I wanted to be knowledgeable, but wasn't willing to put in the work to achieve that: I cut corners, ending up with superficial understanding of many subjects rather than meaningful understanding in one.
While I neglected learning, I devoted myself to the great vice of adolescence: video games. Specifically, I sunk hours into Football Manager. For the uninitiated, players assume the role of a soccer team's head coach. I'm a long-time soccer fan, but the physical aspects of the sport are obviously foreign to me. Thus, the behind-the-scenes coaching role is a perfect fit.
FM's learning curve is infamous. Its interface is intimidating and its gameplay incredibly non-linear. There aren't set goals, and success lies in tactical experimentation or gambling in the transfer market. My friends derided it as a "spreadsheet simulator", but I saw it as art. The pitch was my canvas, and each tactic a methodical masterpiece. This managerial hobby soon became an obsession.
My compulsion to improve at FM drove to research. Initially, I focused on game guides, but the invisible hand of the internet directed me to study soccer itself in a wider context. I became aware of its importance in politics and diplomacy. To my friends' dismay, I rambled constantly about Ivorian striker Drogba preventing war in his homeland, or how the Gulf States whitewash human rights abuses by purchasing global soccer brands.
At that point, I realized that Football Manager had revived my learning spirit. Even better, the amount of time I poured into FM had me thinking: why not use my newfound knowledge productively? To that end, I joined my school's Speech and Debate team.I specialize in international relations, having been led there by FM. Through S&D, I have formed my closest friendships, challenged my biases, and felt immense triumph. Debaters often attribute their success to their supportive teammates and coaches. With all due respect to them, I give the greatest credit to a "spreadsheet simulator".
Just weeks after submitting the essay about his beloved Football Manager, the 18-year-old was told he will be attending the University of California in the fall.
It was, in his own words, the best moment of his life - even better than a Champions League final win against Manchester City, where he went down two-nil down before staging an incredible comeback to lift European football's biggest prize.
"I read the words "Congratulations, Daniel..." and burst out sobbing." Daniel says.
"My mom rushed over to comfort me because she thought I'd been rejected, so when I showed her the result she screamed aloud. Of course, that drew the rest of the family, and we all absolutely lost it."
Daniel is now planning to double major in English and Political Science at the university and his ultimate goal is to pursue another passion-teaching-at the secondary or collegiate level. But his real passion remains.
"Of course, I'll also be playing as much FM as a college student can!"
Featured Image Credit: Daniel Gamboa/Flickr
Topics: Football Manager