Teenage esports star at forefront of competitive gaming

Professional gamer Alessandro ‘Palmatoro’ Palmarini has three European Championship titles under his belt and the 17-year-old hasn’t even left school.

The teenage esports star is getting ready to finish up school in Glasgow and take a year out from his studies to focus on professional gaming on the world scene after the multi-game EU organisation Fnatic signed him to their 2017 Vainglory roster.

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Vainglory is a highly competitive 3v3 MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) set in a dynamic arena called the Halcyon Fold. Players take turn to choose from a long list of heroes boasting unique abilities before teaming up to do battle in the Fold’s jungle and lane. The winner is the trio able to obliterate their opponents’ base, also known as the Vain crystal and matches typically run between 20 and 30 minutes.

The game is only available to download on mobile phones and tablets but the competitive scene has attracted a growing audience on streaming services like Youtube and Amazon's Twitch.

The esports scene isn’t as large as other established PC MOBA communities (occasionally attracting 32 million viewers and prize pools exceeding $20M) but the community has grown rapidly from its humble beginnings when developers Super Evil Mega Corp took to the stage during Apple’s 2014 iPhone keynote event.

Palmatoro (right) shares a moment on stag with Secret team mate Kvalafar

Palmatoro made a name for himself with three-time European champions Team Secret but he’s glad he’s now getting the chance to play alongside new faces under Fnatic’s banner.

“I had to decide if I was going to go to university or take a gap year,” he explains, “and I ended up choosing to take the gap year to dedicate myself to Vainglory full time.

“We had a lot of success in Team Secret, but what I really wanted was to join a team of boys my own age and keen to play Vainglory full time.”

The sixth-year student plans to turn full-time in June, but before that happens, he admits it’s sometimes difficult to squeeze in practice before competitions.

“If I’ve got no homework, I come home and spend about two hours playing before dinner and two hours after, but because of school, there’s some times I’m not able to play at all,” he says, before adding “well... maybe a couple of games before bed.”

Alessandro joined by new Fnatic team mates TetnoJJ (left) and Nettoilette (right)

Palmatoro continuing to put his studies first helped secure the support from his parents, and his new EU organisation vows to take good care of the young superstars on their way to the top.

Fnatic’s Patrik Sattermon said: “When it comes to practice, we encourage our players to find a good balance in life. As esports is so accessible they are, in fact, less prohibited than what they would be if in a conventional sport.

“Several of our organisation's members are still in school, and the reality is that these athletes are, more often than not, successful in school and as active as everyone else when it comes to physical exercise.

“Fnatic has over the past twelve years built up a great understanding of what it takes to compete at the top, we have converted our experiences and lessons into a wide range of best practices around mental coaching, media training, fitness, practice regimes and so forth which provides our athletes with one of the best platforms in the industry to take their career to the next level.”

(L-R) Team Secret's Mowglie, Kvalafar and Palmatoro raise the Spring 2016 EU trophy

Alessandro’s competitive streak isn’t limited to Vainglory. He captains Glasgow Academy’s basketball team after years of playing rugby and can trace his love of competition all the way back to intense Mario Kart races against his brother. He doesn’t know what the future holds for him, the game or his new team mates, but he’s still enjoying living in the moment and making the most of travelling around the world on the back of competitive gaming.

“I’ve competed in Berlin, Poland, London and attended bootcamps in San Francisco before competing in Hollywood for the Vainglory Worlds,” he says.

Palmatoro will be hoping to get back to the World Championships in December 2017. Spring VG8 - the first competitive season of the calendar - begins on March 11th.