With six online seasons, ten live qualification events held worldwide, a record-breaking 869,543 participants and a breathtaking Grand Final in Los Angeles, the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2011 (FIWC11) set a spectacular new standard in the world of gaming!

“I never could have dreamed I would experience anything like that,” beamed Francisco Cruz following his triumph at the Grand Final in Los Angeles. For the 16-year-old, the FIWC11 showpiece was the perfect end to a lengthy journey. Francisco walked away from L.A. with the FIWC11 title, USD 20,000 in prize money and an exclusive invitation to the next FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala.

There were only two ways to secure a place at the FIWC11 Grand Final. A player could qualify by placing in the top two in any one of the six online qualification seasons or, alternatively, they could qualify by winning one of the numerous Live Qualification Events held throughout the world.

An unforgettable experience
Once the first two hopefuls had booked their tickets to the FIWC11 Grand Final, the next highlight on the FIWC calendar was FIFA Interactive World Cup 2010 champion Nenad Stojkovic’s trip to Zurich for the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala. At a press conference before the Gala, Gerard Pique presented Nenad with his FIFA Interactive World Player award. During the course of the unforgettable evening, Nenad had the opportunity to discuss football with Cristiano Ronaldo, impress Lionel Messi with his EA SPORTS™ FIFA11 skills and meet FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. “A day like this means so much more to me than the prize money,” said the FIWC10 Champion.

Live events draw the crowds
FIWC fans barely had time to draw breath as the tournament continued at full speed. The first of the ten Live Qualification Events took place in Moscow on 13 March 2011. Spectators were treated to fast-paced football, fantastic goals and smooth skills in a fantastic atmosphere. In Sydney, former Australia goalkeeper Zejlko Kalac was astonished by the technique on show, while the world’s finest Football Freestylers strutted their stuff in Sao Paulo and a magician wowed the audience in Liverpool.

Into another world
By the end of the qualification process the number of participants had surpassed the 869,000 mark, smashing the previous year’s record and confirming the FIFA Interactive World Cup’s place in the Guinness World Records - Gamer’s Edition for a second consecutive year. "We at FIFA, along with our partners EA SPORTS™ and Sony PlayStation®, are pleased to be able to offer a platform which promotes this form of football," said Ralph Straus, Head of Brand and Strategy.

The tournament enjoys considerable status within FIFA and reflects the ever-increasing importance of the Internet in connecting the global football community. The FIFA Interactive World Cup opens the door to a young and dynamic demographic, allowing FIFA to transmit the values of football to new generations and territories. In light of the staggering success of the world’s largest online computer games tournament, fans and players alike can look forward to a bright future for the FIFA Interactive World Cup.

A new standard
Only the best 24 EA SPORTS™ FIFA 11 gamers in the world earned the chance to compete at the FIWC 2011 Grand Final in Los Angeles, where 16-year-old Francisco Cruz became the tournament’s youngest-ever champion. In a memorable final, the Portuguese delivered a tactical master class. Former USA international Eric Wynalda, who provided live commentary for the Final alongside FIWC10 Champion Nenad Stojkovic, was clearly impressed. "At times I couldn’t tell whether it was a console or a real football game!" exclaimed Wynalda.

The FIFA Interactive World Cup 2011 Grand Final was about more than just virtual football. The finalists enjoyed an incredible three-day visit to Los Angeles which included limousines, helicopter flips, adventure activities, a visit to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) - the largest computer games exhibition in the world - and an exclusive sneak peak of the beta version of EA SPORTS™ FIFA 12 while cruising on a yacht. The 24 Grand Finalists’ adventure in Los Angeles may be over, but their memories of it will live on forever. The only question that remains in the minds of the FIWC community is, ‘what will the next edition bring?’