In the celebratory wake of his qualification for the FIWC 2014 Grand Final through Online Season 1, spoke to England’s Ty Walton about his triumphant return to the FIWC spotlight.

“I'm just excited more than anything, I can't put into words how much I'm looking forward to the whole experience,” says Walton. “Even one Grand Final appearance is something which few players get to experience. I'm very fortunate.”

It has, in fact, been a charmed few years in Ty’s fledging e-sports career. Walton has two Grand Final appearances to date in just three years of competitive play. FIWC14 in Brazil will mark his third appearance at the main event. "I started playing FIFA back when I was a kid, as early as FIFA 2003. It wasn't until FIFA 2011 when I decided to try and qualify for my first FIFA Interactive World Cup," says Ty. 

Remarkably, the Redditch local clutched a Grand Final seat in his qualification debut. “The whole thing was very special to me,” says Ty of his first Grand Final experience at Los Angeles 2011. “It was so great to finally meet everyone that I’d spoken to online in person.”

I was absolutely gutted to miss out on qualifying last year…I watched every game possible through the Live Stream, it looked amazing.

FIWC 2014 Grand Finalist Ty Walton

Ty’s second FIWC qualification campaign was equally successful and the Grand Final, held in Dubai – remains his favourite experience to date. “There was so many special memories from Dubai,” he says. “The whole trip was absolutely crazy! If I had to choose one highlight I would say the fact we actually played the last few games of the group stage in the Burj Al Arab.”

2013 proved Ty’s darkest hour in virtual football. He failed to earn a seat in Madrid, breaking his Grand Final appearance streak. “I was absolutely gutted to miss out on qualifying last year,” he says, “it was my first year of not being able to qualify for the Grand Final since knowing about the FIWC. I watched every game possible through the Live Stream, it looked amazing.“

The bitter experience was not entirely without reward. “In retrospect,” says Ty, “it gave me the motivation to make sure I didn't miss out this year as the whole experience is just incredible. That's why I decided to try my hardest to qualify in Season 1 of FIWC14. So that if I didn't make it first time round I’d still have 5 seasons to qualify.”

While FIWC players share the common loves of virtual and real football, the variety of cultures, interests and backgrounds is diverse and always surprising. For Walton, being at Villa Park – where he is a season ticket holder – is as natural an experience as doing Judo (Ty has a black belt, and has been practicing Judo since age five) or playing EA SPORTS™ FIFA 14 on his PS3.

What does Ty currently do while not playing FIFA 14? “After finishing Sixth Form I decided I didn't want to take on University just yet so I have been travelling the world instead,” he says. While Ty’s travels may take him to remarkable places, the promise of experiencing Rio de Janeiro is something he relishes. “I couldn't imagine a better place for the Grand Final to be held this year, it's every football fans dream to go to the World Cup! This will be incredible; it's a once in a lifetime experience.”

Turning his attention to the game proper, The English player takes a moment to consider the most important attributes a Finalist should cultivate. “To win the Grand Final, of course you need to be playing your best, but it's also a great test of mental strength. It’s the same with any sport though, practice makes perfect.”