Gracias Berlin!

The German capital provided a superb backdrop to the FIFA Interactive World Cup Grand Final 2008. Fans of the EA Sports game flocked to the Sony Center on Potsdamer Platz to witness the pros of the virtual football scene in action, and show off their own skills at the console, trying out the latest computer games on fifteen LCD screens arranged around the stage. The pros were on hand too, offering occasional tips and advice.

A shooting accuracy test, table football and a wide-ranging stage programme all added up to a highly successful event in glorious sunshine. The stage show featured internationally renowned football freestyler John Farnworth and German-Bosnian hip-hop artist Das Bo. "People, what's goin' on" he yelled into the crowd. Breakdance group Flying Steps added physique and dance style to the FIFA Interactive World Cup. "The atmosphere, all these people - it's unbelievable," marvelled Hoani Skipper from New Zealand, one of the 32-strong starting field.

Former Ghana international Anthony Baffoe, the first African to appear in the German Bundesliga, took to the stage as co-presenter. "We had a genuine football atmosphere for the finals. There was all-out effort, just as in real football. Apart from quick fingers, you need tactical nous and a footballer's big heart," commented the 42-year-old, whose birthday it is on Sunday. Former VfB Stuttgart, Borussia Dortmund and Hertha BSC Berlin striker Fredi Bobic was another ex-Bundesliga star determined not to miss the event.

Kevin-Prince Boateng, a true local lad who grew up in the German capital but currently plays in the English Premier League for Tottenham, confided he is also a keen and active adherent of the virtual game.

The crowd had a wonderful day, but Chris Bullard and Andries Smit, the last two years' winners, had a less happy time of it in front of the screen, as both were eliminated at the group stage. The outgoing 2007 champion remained upbeat: "The 2006 World Cup atmosphere in Berlin must have been just like it is here," Smit declared.

German contender Marko Krivokapic was almost overwhelmed beforehand: "So many people! It's a terrific home fixture for me. I hope it doesn't make me nervous, just even more motivated." Playing at 'home' was no real benefit to Marko, who was knocked out in the quarter-finals. "But it's still been tremendous fun. We've had a cracking day!"