Much like at the FIFA World Cup™, there are a number of star competitors that are able to earn return visits to the FIFA Interactive World Cup Grand Final. However the 2012 Final Event – which over one million gamers tried desperately to qualify for – comprised more new faces than old.
Of the field of 24 Grand Finalists, 15 were making their tournament debut, showing just how incredibly tough and competitive the world’s largest gaming tournament has become. FIFA.com spoke to several first-time Grand Finalists to discuss their experiences in Dubai.
"I think if you come here and it's your first live event experience then you won't do really well. It’s just not possible. The nerves are unbelievable for first timers," said Tassal Rushan. Tassal put the favourites on alert in the opening match of the tournament, almost pulling off a huge upset against defending FIWC champion Francisco Cruz. Cruz managed to clinch a 2-1 win but Rushan’s performance sent out a clear message: the newcomers were here to be taken seriously.
"This is my best trip ever," said quarter-finalist Krasimir Ivanov. "I'm with my girlfriend. It's so special for both of us. My favourite moment of the experience has been the trip to Burj Khalifa and the fountains of Dubai.”
Takahide Hazome, a college law student from Kanagawa in Japan had a huge smile on his face throughout the three days in Dubai. "The game is my center right now," he said. “What a great opportunity. I would have loved to follow the path of Homare Sawa by attending the Ballon d'Or Gala, perhaps next time."
"This was my first time to Dubai and I don’t think it's going to be my last,” said Abdulaziz Alsheri. "I have friends back home following the live stream and on twitter. They’re so jealous. They sent me messages everyday.”
"I felt the pressure on the first day. I was quite nervous,” Reece Lambert told FIFA.com. Nerves are something the 18-year old is used to, having played for New Zealand at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2011 held in Mexico. Still, the level of play at the Grand Final was so high that even the football international acknowledged the pressure.
“I’ve been talking to the other newcomers and they've been feeling the same, quite nervous. I mean, these guys are some of the best players in the world," he said. "When you're on a team you've got others to support you and help you, but by yourself it's quite hard. You've really got to be mentally tough.”
“Some Grand Finalists brought along friends who are gamers to help them prepare. I just brought my mum along because she really wanted to come to Dubai! I know Takahide also brought his mum along," said Reece.
Despite the disappointment of a group stage exit for many of them - with the exception of the three newcomers that qualified for the quarter-finalists - all of our tournament debutantes were unanimous in their praise. They thoroughly enjoyed their first visit to the FIFA interactive World Cup which was packed with new experiences, unforgettable activities and memorable matches.