Frenchman Christian Karembeu does not really require an introduction. A FIFA World Cup™ winner with France in 1998, he performed in some of the top leagues in the world, spending three seasons playing in midfield for Real Madrid.

The 43-year-old, who was part of the FIFA Technical Study Group at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, now finds himself back in the Spanish capital to fulfill another enjoyable role, that of FIFA Interactive World Cup ambassador.

“I love this competition; I think it has a great future. 2.5 million people competed this year! And here we’re down to the 21 best players. We’re guaranteed some high-quality performances,” said the former international, who is well placed to analyse the development of the contest over the past few years, after actively participating in the 2012 event in Dubai.

Karembeu provided live commentary for one of the games in the UAE, even playing a friendly match with some of the participants against a team spearheaded by Italian forward Luca Toni.

“Just like the tactical revolution that has taken place in real football, you can also see similar changes in FIFA 13. The boys opt for speed and their tactical acumen is impressive. You can see it in the way they quickly switch formations or make substitutions. Some of them go as far as to hide the gamepad so that their opponent can’t see what they’re doing!” he said, laughing.

He added: “Some of them even have their own coach – they’re like professionals. The level is truly remarkable.”

Tactics and more
Karembeu, who has also served as a tourist guide to the players, showing them places of interest in Madrid, was speaking with at Café 40, where competitors’ fates would be decided in the group stage.

The tension was palpable in every corner of the gaming area, but the New Caledonian, who spent the day at the Spanish Football Federation premises in the company of the finalists, appeared relaxed.

“Well, we’ve just come from the part I enjoy the most: seeing them out on a real football pitch. I know there is a preconception out there about video game players, but make no mistake: today we played together, and I can tell you that these boys know quite a bit about tactics. The virtual game contains a lot of that, and they’re able to carry that across to the pitch,” explained Karembeu.

“Those that say that gamers know nothing about football are wrong – last year we had a participant from New Zealand [Reece Lambert] who had represented his country, while Alfonso Ramos, the current champion, coaches a local youth team in Spain. And those are just two examples, of course,” he said with a smile.

But Karembeu’s smile has already disappeared by the next question. The reason? The mention of the exhibition match that he played against Ramos just a few weeks ago.

“Wow, he destroyed me!” he admitted. “He even had his keeper score one against me. These boys know how to do it all, but I’m still learning. It’s really not easy. But I can still improve. I hope to be able to come back again next year, as I really love it.”