Behind the staggering figure of nearly 870,000 FIFA Interactive World Cup 2011 participants, there were almost certainly just as many fascinating personal stories.
One the most intriguing stories is that of former Grand Finalist Jesus Rodriguez, who we will be following throughout this year's competition. (We will also be selecting a newcomer to FIWC to follow on their maiden journey in the intense tournament. Read our 'Newcomers to FIWC' article to find out more.)
Having been involved in every FIWC to date, Jesus has plenty of tales to tell about the world's largest computer games tournament. You can follow the FIWC veteran's progress and pick up his latest tips and tactics by visiting FIFA.com/fiwc regularly. We spoke to Jesus about his experiences so far and his goals for the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2012.
FIFA.com: When did you discover your passion for both real and virtual football?
Jesus Rodriguez: I discovered my passion for football when I was about 15. My cousins are big fans of Tigres [from Mexico], so I got to know the sport through them. Later I started playing the EA SPORTS™ FIFA series and I've loved it ever since. When I found out about the first FIFA Interactive World Cup in 2004, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Since then I've been involved in every tournament.
What is your biggest success at a FIFA Interactive World Cup to date?
My biggest success so far was taking part in the Grand Final in 2009. I only qualified shortly before the tournament so I didn't have much time to prepare, but the experience of competing against the best players in the world was unforgettable.
What are your goals for the FIWC12?
The Grand Final 2009 was an incredible experience for me so, of course, I want to try and qualify again this year. My wife couldn't come last time, so I'd like to take her to the Grand Final. I'd be even stronger with her support.
What do you think of EA SPORTS™ FIFA12?
For me it's the best and most realistic football simulation of all time. EA SPORTS™ FIFA12 doesn't feel like a simulation any more, though, it's more like real football. You have to be tactical, creative and try to create space for your players. I also like the defending system. It's become even more important to stay compact and prevent chances. I think I have a good chance with EA SPORTS™ FIFA12 because you can translate tactics from the real game. I would advise any players who want to do well at the FIWC12 to give their all in order to keep improving with every game.
What is so special about the FIFA Interactive World Cup? What motivates you to take part every year?
A lot of people would like to be professional footballers, but unfortunately only a handful are able to realise that dream. The FIFA Interactive World Cup gives you the opportunity to compete against players from around the world, have a great deal of fun and come a step closer to that dream.
You can follow Jesus Rodriguez's FIWC12 story and gain an exclusive insight into the tournament on FIFA.com/fiwc. If you have any questions for Jesus, simply send them using the 'Add your comment' function below. We will select the best questions and get our FIWC veteran to answer them in our next interview.