While every FIFA Interactive World Cup champion enjoys their own unique moments and encounters while attending the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala, Abdulaziz Alshehri was stunned by the number of football stars that took the time to meet FIFA's official world champion of virtual football.
During his three-day visit to Zurich the star-struck Saudi Arabian met several of the World XI for 2015, including FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015 winner Lionel Messi, spent time with FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women's Football Jill Ellis, snapped photos with Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo and played EA SPORTS™ FIFA 16 with Carli Lloyd, whose hat-trick in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ helped secure her the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2015.
Shortly after the last award was handed over on the glamorous evening at Zurich’s Kongresshaus, Alshehri shared his thoughts on the various nominees and winners with FIFA.com.
“I had a deep feeling that Messi would win,” said the FIWC champion. “Although I would have liked to see Neymar take it.” When asked to break down the three nominees for the men’s award, Alshehri was quick to answer, as you would expect from a football fan that spends hours analysing players and tactics in the hopes of gaining a competitive edge in the world of e-sports.
“Of course," he said. "They are different in many ways. Messi is genius of a player who can pass four or five defenders at once, while Ronaldo is a complete forward. He can score from headers. He can dribble. He can shoot from distance. As for Neymar, he can do everything with the ball, while he’s also an excellent finisher.”
During a relaxed press conference for the FIFA Ballon d'Or nominees, which Alshehri watched intensely from a place in the audience, Cristiano Ronaldo surprised everyone by suggesting that if he could have any of Messi’s attributes, it would be La Pulga’s left-foot. The comment came as a particular surprise to Alshehri, who favours the Portuguese over the Argentinian in virtual football, often employing the Real Madrid No. 7’s left foot to devastating effect. It was in fact virtual Ronaldo that secured the Saudi Arabian his world title, with a stunning hat-trick in the final match of the 2015 Grand Final. “Ronaldo can score with both feet so I found it really weird that he said that,” said Alshehri. “Maybe it’s because Messi’s left foot is like a gift from God. Maybe Ronaldo really meant it. “
While Messi walked away with a record fifth FIFA Ballon d’Or, the Argentinian was denied the 2015 FIFA Puskás Award thanks to then-unknown Wendel Lira, who plays in Brazil’s second division. “Wendell’s goal was amazing,” said the FIWC champion. “Not only the finish, but the build-up, the passing between the players before he finished it…it was a work art. He deserved the win.”
Alshehri was equally impressed by the Puskás winner’s virtual skills. Lira handed the champion a massive FIFA 16 upset in Zurich, after which the Brazilian confessed that he had in fact competed in qualification for FIWC 2016, almost qualifying online for a place at this year's New York Grand Final. I’ve always liked video games,” said the Puskás winner, “but my focus is on football and I need to train hard.”
As for the World XI, Alshehri - in characteristic fashion of someone used to tweaking and change his team and formation - had two changes he would have made to the FIFA/FIFPro World XI for 2015. “Based on their 2015, I would have included Suarez and Alaba,” he said.
In fact, If Alshehri could rewrite any portion of FIFA Ballon d’Or history, the Saudi Arabian is emphatic about what that revision would be. “I’ve wanted Iniesta so badly to win a FIFA Ballon d’Or during his career. He’s won everything, he's accomplished everything with Barcelona and Spain. It would be so unfortunate if he retired without having won a Ballon d’Or.”