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Long before his music was topping the UK charts or even before he crossed into the world of boxing, KSI found fame and success on YouTube. KSI, real name Olajide Olatunji, has amassed a staggering 23.7m subscribers on YouTube to date, a remarkable feat after starting his channel back in 2009. The YouTuber-turned-rapper’s ticket to stardom was punched through his videos around EA Sports’ fan-favourite FIFA franchise. While KSI’s polarising YouTube content was sometimes deemed ‘offensive,’ caused shock value (unnecessarily at times, to be fair) and landed the British star in hot water, there’s no denying his beloved ‘Race to Division One’ series on FIFA 12 catapulted him into another stratosphere when it came to FIFA gaming content on YouTube. Sure, many teams helped him on his highs and lows in reaching the elusive Division 1 back in the day, but the main one that stood out, of course, was none other than the Ivory Coast.
KSI kicked off his memorable YouTube series in September 2011 ahead of FIFA 12’s official release by using an EA Sports Season Ticket, a paid-for program that offered incentives for different EA Sports titles. In the case of FIFA 12, though, the benefits included a 20 per cent discount on FIFA Ultimate Team packs and access to FIFA 12 three days before its 30th September launch in Europe. The 28-year-old YouTube star admitted in his first Race to Division One video that he couldn’t access the fan-favourite Ultimate Team in early access, so he turned his attention to a then-new addition to FIFA called ‘Head to Head Seasons.’ And this, folks, is where Race to Division One was born. For the uninitiated, Seasons would place every player in the bottom tier of Division 10 and they would face off against other opponents in a series of ranked matches. The objective was straightforward: earn enough points to secure promotion to the next division. Each division consisted of 10 matches, with players fighting to climb into the next division or, above anything else, avoid relegation. Of course, the higher a player would climb in the divisions, the more they would be tested when they came up against better opposition players.
Seasons really allowed players to dabble in their choice of teams, with both clubs and international sides available for online head-to-head battles. Yup, that meant that KSI could lean towards his favourite football team of Arsenal -- which he used in the very first episode of Race to Division One -- or even experiment with the likes of AC Milan, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Argentina and more. It wasn’t until the 11th episode of Race to Division One that we would see the Ivory Coast debut for KSI -- he might have used them in matches we didn’t see in the YouTube series -- and came with it the stellar entertainment that shot him so high up in YouTube popularity, especially within the FIFA community.
One of KSI’s reasons for picking the Ivory Coast I won’t mention here (remember that part about a controversial history? Well, this is one such example), but a lot of it came down to FIFA 12’s mechanics at the time. FIFA is probably the most unrealistic simulation of an actual football match, with FIFA 12 benefiting from players who could fully tap into four- and five-star skill moves and footballers who had ridiculous pace and high strength attribute to hold off players. Enter Ivory Coast, with KSI taking full advantage of the likes of Didier Drogba, Gervinho, Seydou Doumbia and Yaya Toure. KSI’s menacingly modified voice roaring Drogba’s name and him christening Gervinho with the nickname ‘Forehead’ were among the many outrageous moments -- and somewhat iconic during FIFA 12’s life cycle -- where the Ivory Coast aided him with his ultimate mission of reaching Division 1.
KSI, at least back in those days, was excellent at attacking and he could skin someone alive with skill moves. But playing as the Ivory Coast didn’t always ensure him a win, especially due to his questionable defending. Look, I’m not in a position to lecture anyone on defending (although I have been known to deliver a Jose Mourinho-esque defending masterclass on FIFA), but it was up there in KSI’s FIFA 12 weaknesses. Drogba could bang in a header for him and Doumbia’s unreal pace could help him in trying to double his lead, but that never meant that KSI could blow his lead and end up getting a 2-2 draw or, even worse, lose 3-2. To be fair, it might have come down to KSI’s style of play and how he went for an all-out attack on his opponent. The YouTuber did share insights into some of his wild pre-match tactics and instructions he would use for the Ivory Coast, including a modified formation of 4-2-4. Additionally, it’s not like the Ivory Coast team available in FIFA 12 were known for their world-class defenders. KSI’s four-man backline, sometimes consisting of Emmanuel Eboue (77 rating), Igor Lolo (71 rating), Brou Angoua (68 rating) and Siaka Tiene (75 rating), for the Ivory Coast would all hold overalls under 80, coupled with a 72-rated Boubacar ‘Copa’ Barry between the sticks.
It took 44 videos, which were uploaded across a seven-month period from September 2011 to March 2012, for KSI to finally achieve his ‘dream’ of reaching Division 1. After an excruciatingly long period in Division 2, the YouTube star mounted his final push to the coveted Division 1 with a major assist from, of course, the Ivory Coast. In his final video for the series, KSI posted a 4-1 thumping of Valencia, 5-2 demolition of Villareal, 2-2 draw against Barcelona and 1-0 defeat to AC Milan all while using the Ivory Coast. That’s not to mention a 5-1 steamrolling of Benfica as the Ivory Coast, only for the connection to be lost in the 83rd minute -- safe to say his opponent probably rage-quitted, I imagine.
With a 5-1-3 record and only one match remaining in Division 2, KSI had 16 points on the board and needed a win to hit the 18-point mark needed to ensure promotion to Division 1. Using the unorthodox 4-2-4 formation -- and, as shown earlier in the video, a whole lot of tinkering with how his team played -- Drogba and Gervinho put KSI’s Ivory Coast 2-0 up in the first half against Marseille. Remember how I said KSI was not the best at defending? Well, Loic Remy, who was overpowered to hell on FIFA 12 Ultimate Team, pulled one back late in the second half. However, KSI weathered a late scare from a corner and immediately launched a counterattack, with the ‘Holiday’ and ‘Really Love’ hitmaker skilling his opponent alive with Gervinho before slotting home his third of the match to seal a 3-1 win. Marking the end of his epic rollercoaster ride in the FIFA 12 series, a relieved KSI said: “It is done! It is done! I am finally in Division 1. After all these months of pain and agony, I have finally gone into the Promised Land.”
KSI carried over the Race to Division One series to FIFA 13 when it launched in 2012, but, for me, it never captured the same magic as his first outing, especially due to his affinity with the Ivory Coast. Trust me, KSI was always the big talk in the FIFA community back in the day and I remember how many people would use the Ivory Coast after watching his series. The only thing that came close to rivalling ‘peak’ KSI’s content at the time was his equally brilliant FIFA 12 ‘Beast’ series -- and that content alone showed how much influence he wielded as a YouTuber, as the players who he spotlighted would skyrocket in value on the Ultimate Team market.
KSI’s finale to FIFA 12’s Race to Division One alone has over six million views at the time of this writing, not to mention the playlist on his YouTube channel boasting six million views as well. I’m not the only one who holds a nostalgic fondness for the beloved Race to Division One series. “This will forever be the best series KSI ever put out,” one YouTube commenter wrote. Someone else added: “Back when KSI was the best thing on YouTube.” A third posted: “Fell in love with KSI through this series. Amazing.” Another commented: “It’s okay that he changed, but this is his magnum opus, this is his masterpiece. I just hope he never forgets this.” Of course, these are only a handful of comments littered across the first episode of Race to Division One, a lasting testament to the impact and legacy of KSI’s FIFA content on YouTube.
On KSI’s Race to division 1 on FIFA 12, in the 43 different episodes. He did not save a single penalty https://t.co/6jriNmHun2— Nathan 🇮🇹 (@nathanl3ach) March 10, 2021
Sometimes I get sad and watch KSI’s race to division 1 on fifa 12— Josh 🅿️innit (@Joshhhhlambert) October 5, 2019
Mad to think that nearly 10 years ago this man was making FIFA 12 Race To Division One and Q&A Sunday YouTube videos in his room at his parents house. The career KSI has carved out for himself over this last decade has been nothing short of incredible. 👏👏👏 https://t.co/tYC99pLG4Z— George (@georgewhucoyi) June 25, 2021
No matter what anyone says, KSI’s Episode 33 Race to Division One on FIFA 12 will always be one of his most memorable videos.— Raj (@RajFK97) April 8, 2020
KSI’s success post-FIFA has been nothing short of impressive. Not only for his lucrative music career, but we’re also talking about KSI’s business venture with former YouTube rival Logan Paul, a 2018 documentary about himself (KSI: Can’t Lose) and TV appearances on the likes of The Great Stand Up to Cancer Bake Off, Gogglebox, Top Gear and more. In the FIFA YouTube community, though, KSI and his Ivory Coast team from Race to Division One will not be forgotten any time soon. Oh, and a fun fact: KSI’s final Race to Division One record stood at 60-13-31.
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