Brak, the man behind the champion
© FIFA.com

There is not much gaming fans do not know about French wizard Bruce Grannec, the current holder of the FIFA Interactive World Cup title. At the age of 26, the diehard Paris Saint-Germain supporter has turned the videogame world upside down and even has a manager and a coach to aid him with his full-time career.

Yet one thing the fans perhaps do not know is that the poker-faced Grannec, who is known in the trade as The Machine for his ability to grind out wins, has a sparring partner by the name of Brak, a close friend against whom he plays all his training matches.

“Brak is very important for me, not just because he’s my friend but because he knows my game inside out,” explained Grannec, who takes on his right-hand man between five and seven times a day. “There’s no one better placed than him to advise me and test my game. I’m always learning things with him.”

“I don’t know if I’d put it like that,” replied Brak, proud to receive his friend’s praise but a little reticent about it nonetheless. “It’s more a case of me learning everything from him. He beats me nine times out of ten, and he’s taught me how to defend, attack and concentrate. Bruce is so good you have to be focused from the first minute to the last.”

Ten years together 
The imposing yet smiling Brak, who hails from a Senegalese family, is much more than a mere sparring partner to Grannec. He is one of his best friends, the duo having first met as gaming rivals.

“It was ten years ago,” said the 25-year-old Brak, taking up the story. “I was looking to take on the best and I saw Bruce was leading the table, so I invited him to a game. What we didn’t know was that it was the start of a great friendship.”

A PSG fanatic himself, Brak also plays in and reports on gaming tournaments but found time to make an important contribution to Grannec’s FIWC Grand Final win in Madrid in May.

“I wasn’t there but I spoke to Bruce on the phone after the terrible first day he had,” he recalled. “He was very down but I wasn’t. I know him and I know what he’s capable of achieving. I told him to remember that he’s a great player and that everything would come naturally. All he had to do was enjoy himself and not think about things.”

The pep talk was just what Grannec needed. Filled with renewed confidence, he began to string the wins together and eventually walked off with the title for a second time.

“I watched the final from my room in Paris,” continued Brak. “My heart was beating fast and I was so happy to see him win the title. I remember going with his brother to meet him at the airport, but you know what Bruce is like. He’s not very expressive. It’s not easy to celebrate with him. We just gave each other a hug.”

The sky is the limit
FIFA.com saw for itself the effect that Brak has on the two-time world champion. Whenever he is around, Grannec comes to life. Responding with a laugh to his recent defeat to Alfonso Ramos in the Champions Trophy final in Cologne, a defeat Brak witnessed in person, Grannec said: “It was obvious I was going to lose here. He brings me bad luck. He didn’t go to Madrid and I won. Then he comes here and look what happens.”

Taking the joke in good humour, Brak explained his absence from May’s Grand Final: “With some of the tournaments, it’s better that his coach Zal goes. He knows him as well as I do, but he’s better at coming up with the right words at the right time.”

Brak has never contested an FIWC Grand Final himself. “It’s very hard to qualify,” he said. “I regard myself as a good player but not that good.” Yet in contemplating his friend’s chances of retaining his world title next year, he exuded confidence: “He’s a very special player who can win whenever he puts his mind to it. All he has to do is enjoy what he’s doing. If he does that, he can achieve whatever he wants to.”