Tomoki shines bright in Tokyo
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A city famous for being the world leader in producing the greatest and latest in next-generation technology today produced Japan’s first ever FIFA Interactive World Cup Grand Finalist. Tomoki Maeda has won the Japanese Live Qualifier Event at Sunshine City in Tokyo and will be amongst the 32 virtual football elite who will gather in Barcelona on 1 May for the FIWC10 Grand Final.

After a morning of intense pre-qualification, the top four players from Tokyo joined the top four players from the Osaka pre-qualifier for a Final 8 showdown. Before the final group stage of the tournament commenced the 8 finalists, who were all very excited by the prospect of becoming the first Japanese player to attend the Grand Final, were presented to the Tokyo crowd and given their adidas tournament jerseys.

I will go to Spain and try my best to win the Grand Final and will represent all the other players who have competed in this event in Japan.
Japan's FIWC10 national champion Tomoki Maeda

Having successfully qualified for the Final 8 stage a few weeks ago at the pre-qualifier event held in Osaka, Tomoki dribbled his way to the Tokyo final. He scored 18 goals in his three group games to set up a mouth-watering finale against German Cheung. Cheung, who made the four-hour plane journey from Hong Kong to participate, navigated his way through pre-qualification this morning to qualify for the Final 8 and picked up a large fan following in the process.

The final
Ahead of the final match, Tomoki and Cheung were given some words of encouragement from former Japanese football star Hiroshi Nanami. Having represented The Samurai Blue at the 1998 FIFA World Cup™, Nanami knows all about the pressure that accompanies players competing in major tournaments.

The hard-fought final match was made to feel like a real Cup Final with Japan’s much-loved commentator Akihiko Nishioka providing scintillating live commentary. Tomoki beat German Cheung 8-4, capping a hugely successful first ever FIWC Live Qualifier Event for Japan. Whilst watching the incredible goal-filled final, Nanami must have been wishing Japan had someone like Tomoki playing upfront for them at France 1998; Japan failed to win a single game at the tournament.

Cheung shows commitment
Cheung, who has been competing in the online qualification for FIWC10, was so keen to actually attend a Live Qualifier Event that he persuaded his wife to accompany him on a 4-day trip to Tokyo in his quest to book a place at the Grand Final.

Speaking after his 1-0 win in the first round, the 32-year-old said, "I’m not sure whether I will win here today as there are a number of very good Japanese players but I am just thrilled to be taking part in the FIFA Interactive World Cup and I have my wife here supporting me!"

To Cheung’s disappointment, he fell at the final hurdle, unable to stop Tomoki’s impressive goal scoring streak. Nevertheless today’s runner-up enjoyed his first FIWC experience and has already turned his attention to next year when he hopes to attend another Live Qualifier Event and achieve his aim of representing Hong Kong at a Grand Final.

Tomoki will join the world’s best virtual players at the Grand Final in just under 6 weeks time. Until then, he will surely dream of becoming the FIFA Interactive World Champion 2010 along with USD20,000 in prize money and an invitation to the FIFA World Player Gala 2010. "I will go to Spain and try my best to win the Grand Final and will represent all the other players who have competed in this event in Japan," said Japan’s new national champion.

Three live events left
There are now only three Live Qualifier Events before the Grand Final on 1 May. The UK event takes place on Monday, 22 March at the Emirates Stadium in London. Brazil and Australia hold their events in April. To find out all the latest information about the remaining events please visit the ‘Live Qualifiers’ link to the right of this article.

Hiroshi Nanami