Sky’s the limit for Collen
© FIFA.com

With 96 days to go until the opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, Collen Ndlovu is already celebrating a major football achievement in Johannesburg, South Africa. After a long day of tough competition, Collen won the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2010 South Africa Live Event and has qualified for the FIWC10 Grand Final.

The atmosphere in South Africa is electric at the moment with the entire nation eagerly awaiting the start of football’s biggest showpiece. South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira will hope Bafana Bafana can match the form shown by Ndlovu today, when they play the tournament’s opening match against Mexico in Johannesburg on 11 June.

Road to victory
Callen breezed through the group stages at the Live Qualifier Event. En route to the final, Ndlovu came up against 19-year-old Rakan Al-Haqbani from Saudi Arabia. Rakan qualified to compete from the Quarter Finals stage of the South African Live Event after he won the Saudi Arabian Feeder event. Unfortunately for Al-Haqbani, Ndlovu proved too strong on his home turf and he beat the Saudi Arabian champion 5-3.

I live for football and only turned up today because my friend thought he could beat me.
Newly crowned South African champion Collen Ndlovu.

Having recently starred in the first FIWC mini-film, FIWC09 South African Champion Gordon Butler was also in attendance. Gordon had high hopes of successfully defending his national title. The 2009 champion reached the final 14 before being bested by Naeem Williams in an intense 5-4 encounter. Another previous National Champion, Bjorn Diedricks, also failed in his quest to claim a second national crown; Bjorn was knocked out in the early stages of the 2010 event.

Thrilling finale
The high-stakes final saw Ndlovu cross PlayStation®3 remotes with FIWC08 Grand Finalist Abubakar Ebrahim. The crowd were perched on the edge of their seats throughout the incredible finale. After a tense 0-0 first-half the two contenders set the screens ablaze, scoring five goals in the second half. After hitting the woodwork on three occasions, it looked as though Ndlovu was out of luck. However with the score locked at 2-2, the enterprising 18-year-old launched a sudden attack on goal in the 90th minute to score the winner in the 3-2 thriller. As the fifth goal hit the net the crowd erupted and joined the local boy in celebration.

An unexpected day
Enjoying the taste of victory and realising that he had won an all expenses paid trip to compete in the FIWC10 Grand Final in Barcelona on 1 May, the newly crowned National Champion was bursting with joy. "I live for football," he said, "and only turned up today because my friend thought he could beat me. He lost in one of the early rounds and now I have just won the tournament!” When asked how he might fair at the Grand Final, Ndlovu responded with a brief and ecstatic "the sky’s the limit!"

A passionate crowd enjoyed the one-day event at Cresta Shopping Centre in Johannesburg and eagerly supported the 466 challengers on hand. In addition to the dazzling virtual football on offer, spectators were also able to enjoy a variety of entertainment. Fans tried their shot at the speed kick activity, watched world-class football tricksters perform and were treated to a live DJ performance that added a proudly South African flavour to the Live Qualifier. Zakumi, the official South Africa 2010 mascot, was also in attendance much to the delight of fans.

Final stretch
The next five weeks will mark the busiest period for FIWC10. Hundreds of thousands of gamers are frantically playing EA SPORTS™ FIFA10 on the PlayStation®Network in an attempt to claim one of the remaining Grand Final spots via online qualification. The second and final online season for FIWC10 closes at the end of March. There are also seven Live Qualification Events taking place in the coming weeks as FIWC travels to five continents in search of the world’s elite virtual footballers. The Denmark and France Live Qualification Events take place next weekend. To find out where your nearest Live Qualifier Event is please visit the destination section on www.FIFA.com/FIWC