• Brazilians dominated the FIFA Ultimate Team regional final in Miami on 19 February
  • The champion, Rafael "Rafifa 13" Fortes, was particularly impressive
  • The prodigy has since signed for Paris Saint-Germain and will be among the main attractions at the FIFA 17 Ultimate Team Championship Final in Berlin

The boys from Brazil are making waves, both with a ball at their feet and with controllers in their hands. Following an imperious run in 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying, A Seleção have returned to top spot in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. At the same time, the home of jogo bonito is positively thriving in the world of eSports in general and virtual football in particular. This was tellingly illustrated at the FIFA Ultimate Team regional final in Miami, where half of the six available tickets to the FIFA 17 Ultimate Team Championship Final in Berlin were captured by Brazilians.

Indeed, the final in Miami was an all-Brazilian affair between Lucas Goncalves and Rafael Fortes, with the latter running out victorious in convincing fashion. "Even though we don't have tournaments with really big prizes, we've got lots of live events and a strong community of gamers who are used to coping with pressure," Fortes told FIFA.com. "That explains our success in Miami. There were five of us in the field, of whom four progressed from the group stage and three qualified for Berlin."

At the age of 21, Fortes already has six years of competitive action behind him, not to mention an appearance at the FIWC – in 2014 – and two Brazilian titles under his belt. However, his exploits in Florida took his reputation to the next level. His impressive form throughout the tournament, during which he notably claimed the scalp of Colombian icon Javier "Janoz CFI" Munoz in the Xbox final, confirmed that he is very much a force to be reckoned with on the big stage. Among the many whose heads were turned by his performances were Paris Saint-Germain, who duly snapped him up at the end of March.

"I think everything I've done since 2011 played a role, but the Miami final was really the clincher," said the prodigy, who is proud to now call August "Agge" Rosenmeier and Lucas "DaXe" Cuillerier his team-mates. "PSG are a big club in eSports, from League of Legends to FIFA, and joining them was extra special for me considering their unique connection with Brazil over the years," he went on, letting out a smile, in reference to the mark made in Paris by the likes of Leonardo, Rai, Ronaldinho and Thiago Silva.

"My life has completely changed. Now I can call myself a pro gamer. I used to work for a social media company, but I quit as soon as I signed for PSG so that I could focus 100 per cent on my game. It's a wonderful opportunity and everything is in place for me to succeed. Obviously, the fact that I've signed for PSG has attracted a lot of media attention and I've had a lot of requests," concluded Fortes, whose goal for the short term remains crystal clear: to shine in Berlin in May so he can make it to the FIWC 2017 Grand Final.

Did you know?
- The first edition of the FIWC, in 2004, was won by a Brazilian, Thiago Carrico de Azevedo
- The 2015 Puskás Award winner, Wendell Lira, hung up his boots to become a professional FIFA player and launch his own YouTube channel
- The next Americas regional final takes place in Vancouver on 22 April. Will the Brazilians steal the show again?