Stojkovic wins the day in Barcelona
© FIFA.com

Hosted in Barcelona for the second year in a row, the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2010 Grand Final proved to be an unforgettable occasion, as the best 32 gamers on the planet battled it out on EA SPORTS™ FIFA10 virtual pitch on PlayStation®3 for the right to become world champion.

Fighting their way through online qualification and a series of live qualifier events, with an amazing 775,000 players taking part in all, the select band of finalists hailed from every corner of the globe. Travelling to Barcelona from as far afield as Russia, Egypt, Australia and Brazil, they put on a show that the national teams who have qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ will do well to match in a few weeks’ time.

The perfect setting
Not even the rain that fell at the start of the event could detract from a superb day’s entertainment. To the relief of the thousands of fans who flocked to the Grand Final, the skies eventually brightened, allowing them to enjoy all the attractions laid on by the organisers.

Aside from the competition itself, there was plenty for football gaming fans to see and do at a specially designed complex situated in Barcelona’s stunning Port Olimpic and comprising a Beach Soccer pitch, an Entertainment Lounge hosting PlayStation’s next-generation products, football skills shows and live music.

Among the acts keeping the fans entertained were the Football Tricksters, with their magical ball-juggling show, and the equally amazing vocals of solo performer The PeteBox. Providing a musical backdrop was Batucada Live, and Spanish beach soccer star Amarelle was also on hand with a special clinic in which he revealed the secrets behind the game. To cap it all former Barcelona idol Patrick Kluivert milled around with the fans, signing autographs and having his photo taken with his many admirers.

A day to remember
Yet, there was no question what the big event of the day was: the FIWC 2010 Grand Final. And gaming fans did not have long to wait before the 32 finalists settled down on their consoles and started reproducing the finely honed skills that had brought them all the way to Barcelona.

Slowly but surely the field was whittled down until only four gamers remained. Not surprisingly reigning world champion, the wily Bruce Grannec of France, was among them, though he would face some stiff competition from England’s Danny Taylor, the USA’s Nenad Stojkovic and Ayhan Altundag of Germany, all three of them new boys.

And it was Stojkovic who sprang the surprise of the day in his semi with Grannec, scoring a superb extra-time hat-trick to secure a 6-3 win after the two had drawn 3-3 in normal time. There was more tense gaming in store in the other semi-final as the 18-year-old Altundag saw off Taylor, one year his junior, by three goals to one.

It was a very tight game and it could have gone either way. I’ll be going out in Barcelona to celebrate, that’s for sure, and I know the people back home in Albuquerque will be celebrating with me.
Nenad Stojkovic

Recovering his poise quickly after the shock of losing his crown, Grannec ensured he did not go away empty-handed after beating Taylor 3-0 to take third place.

Then it was time for the final, the match everyone had been waiting for. Stojkovic and Altundag were already well acquainted with each other, having drawn 2-2 in the group phase, which perhaps explained their cagey tactics in the opening stages. The American eventually took the lead 34 minutes in, with Altundag levelling the score seven minutes later. With little to choose between either player, the next goal would prove crucial. And it was Stojkovic who scored it with only 15 minutes remaining. Expertly running down the clock, the American closed out the win to take the FIWC 2010 title.

Celebrating in the style of his real-life footballing heroes, Stojkovic could barely conceal his delight. “It was a very tight game and it could have gone either way,” he said afterwards. “I’ll be going out in Barcelona to celebrate, that’s for sure, and I know the people back home in Albuquerque will be celebrating with me.”

As well as being crowned the best football gamer on the planet, Stojkovic also pocketed a handsome prize of USD 20,000 and an invitation to meet the greatest players in the world at the FIFA World Player Gala 2010. All in all, it was quite a day’s work for the American wizard.