The countdown begins

It promises to be a day of excitement and entertainment. On Saturday, 32 of the world's best gamers go head-to-head at the Sony Center, Berlin in the FIFA Interactive World Cup Grand Final. The 20 winners from the Live Qualifier events from around the world meet the 12 online qualifiers for the right to be named as the FIFA Interactive World Player 2008, as well as take home $20,000 USD in prize money.

The favourites to win the prize all have plenty of experience. Andries Smit, the current champion and winner of the Netherlands qualifier faces a tough test to retain his crown with 2005 winner Chris Bullard, Stephen Coorey and Ruben Morales, all competing at their third Grand Final, eager to knock the Dutch master off the top.

I feel under a lot of pressure because everyone is expecting me to win again.
Current champ Andries Smit is feeling the heat ahead of the Grand Final.

"I'm the champ and everyone's looking at me," said Smit in a recent FIFA.com interview. " I feel under a lot of pressure because everyone is expecting me to win again."

This year, however, the 'old guard' will face a new challenge in the form of 14-year-old Sachith Reddy, the winner of the India qualifier, who only played FIFA08 a month before he booked his passage to Berlin. There is also Davor Brescakovic, the 20-year-old Croatian who won the event in New Zealand after losing out at the semi-final stage in Switzerland. Will his dedication to reaching the Grand Final pay dividends in Berlin?

Free entry, everyone welcome
Entry to the event is free - and people of all ages are welcome to take part in the fun. German music star Das Bo will perform live on stage to make this event a huge party for not only the finalists, but also for all the spectators who will be able to check out the newest games and play FIFA 08 for themselves.

Anthony Baffoe, a former Ghanaian international and the first African player in the German Bundesliga, will not only be one of the many football guests that evening but also the co-host of the event. FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer will represent FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.

"I am very impressed with the level of the participants," said Blazer. "It is clear that they have been practicing hard, and like any football event, practice is one of the most important things. The FIFA Interactive World Cup is establishing itself as a premier gaming tournament, and the only one under the FIFA banner. I am also an avid gamer, and the gaming aspect of FIFA08 is unbelievable, it gives the impression of watching a live game.

"I think it is apt that there are now 32 competitors, which mirrors the number of teams in the FIFA World Cup. This tournament is a serious one, and like its big-brother tournament, the FIFA World Cup, it is not the prize money that encourages good performance, but the pride of being crowned a FIFA world champion."