The stars of world football from the mens’ and women’s game converged in Zurich on 13 January for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2013. It was a special day for fans and footballers alike, as the best players and coaches were recognized for their achievements in the past year.

Walking among the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Pele, Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery and Lionel Messi at the various FIFA Ballon d’Or related activities throughout the day was a young wide-eyed Frenchman perhaps unknown to the majority of football fans. The sharp-eyed clean-cut youngster - talking excitedly with his friend as they rub shoulders with the most elite players from world football – was two-time FIFA Interactive World Cup winner Bruce Grannec. The man at his side, his trusted EA SPORTS™ FIFA 14 sparring partner, Mahmoud Brak.

It’s what makes winning the FIWC so worthwhile, meeting and greeting all my heroes.

Bruce Grannec

For winning the FIWC 2013 Grand Final in Madrid, Grannec received USD 20,000 in prize money and a trip for two people to the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2013. It’s an often-stated fact by FIWC champions that the trip to the FIFA Ballon d’Or is worth more to them than money. For these football fans - who invest so much time and energy in mastering the virtual skills of stars like Ribery, Ronaldo and Messi in the EA SPORTS FIFA series on the PlayStation®3 - the chance to meet the living, breathing versions of these players is a dream come true. Every year the world’s best and brightest virtual footballers sign up and compete in the FIWC – the largest gaming tournament in the world – in the hopes of experiencing what Bruce has enjoyed today.

Jurgen Klopp and Marta surprise Bruce
At the FIWC press conference, held a few hours before the main ceremony, Bruce was called on stage by FIWC13 commentator Alan McInally to receive his FIWC certificate. To Bruce’s delight, 2013 FIFA Coach of the Year nominee Jurgen Klopp surprised the champion on stage. "My players; they would be lucky to meet you." Jurgen told Bruce, shaking his hand.

After receiving his award, Bruce was surprised by a second star guest. Five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta walked on stage to challenge the champion. "I trained plenty, let's go the field" Marta told Bruce in Portuguese.

The game was to be France vs. Brazil, a virtual and real classic. A vocal Marta could be found screaming "run!" and "offsides!" as she immersed herself in the game against the interactive world champion. Marta’s competitive spirit shone through and she pushed Bruce to his limit. "Last action!" Bruce yelled out repeatedly as he made his final attack of the game, hoping to secure a match winning goal in the final moments. Brilliant defending by Marta kept Bruce from scoring and the game ended in a well-fought 0-0 draw. You can watch Marta take on Bruce in the above video.

“I still can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s what makes winning the FIWC so worthwhile, meeting and greeting all my heroes.” Bruce said. The conference over, Bruce settled into an unforgettable evening of taking photographs, sharing a few words and shaking hands with many of his football heroes.

Now that the ceremony is over Bruce will turn his focus to Brazil, hosts of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ and FIWC 2014 Grand Final where he will attempt to defend his title. “I've never been to Brazil, I'm really looking forward to the World Cup. It's a football country.” Bruce said. On his hopes for the French national team: “Well we could win the World Cup, that could be beautiful. Why shouldn't we win there?"

The FIFA Interactive World Cup is the largest gaming tournament in the world. The 2014 edition of the tournament is currently underway with three qualification season’s remaining. FIWC 2014 will culminate with a Grand Final in Rio de Janeiro during the 2014 FIFA World Cup™! Sign up for the FIWC now!