The world’s largest online gaming tournament, the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC), kicks off today. FIWC12 - the eighth edition of the event - is set to be bigger and more engaging than ever before.

This year’s event follows the same format as the 2011 edition. Six online qualification seasons and 11 live qualifier events will determine the best 23 players in the world. This elite squad of gaming talent will join reigning FIWC Champion Francisco Cruz at the Grand Final, which will be held in May 2012.  

Thanks to the combined efforts of FIFA and presenting partners EA SPORTS ™ and Sony PlayStation® the event has enjoyed huge growth over the past three years. Participation numbers have surged to 870,000 in 2011 from 565,000 in 2009 and the event has been crowned the largest online gaming tournament in the world by Guinness World Records for the past two years running.

It gives your everyday football fan the chance to become a world champion.

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on the FIFA Interactive World Cup

This success has not escaped the attention of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, who considers the event to be a “truly unique tournament”. “The reason why? Because it gives your everyday football fan the chance to become a world champion,” said the FIFA President.

The prizes and prestige don’t stop there. The eventual winner of this year’s event will win a cash prize of USD 20,000 and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the exclusive FIFA Ballon d’Or. Defending FIFA Interactive World Cup champion Francisco Cruz will get the VIP treatment when he joins the world’s greatest football stars on the red carpet in Zurich on 9 January. The Portuguese claimed the FIWC title earlier this year at the FIWC11 Grand Final, held in Los Angeles over the course of three days in early June.

“I think of this every single day,” said Francisco. “I still haven’t been able to fully comprehend it. Meeting players like Ronaldo and Messi is not something everyone gets to do, I’m going enjoy it to the maximum!”