The Spain Territory Showdown, with its prize of a ticket to the Grand Final of the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2013, had a bit of everything. Held in Valencia on April 4, the event witnessed a host of thrilling encounters, a new national champion and the presence of Sergio Canales, Valencia’s highly rated attacking midfielder.
Over the course of the evening, which concluded with Maximo Ibanez securing his passage to the Grand Final in Madrid, Canales could have been mistaken for another competitor, even going as far as commentating on the deciding game and challenging the eventual winner to an exhibition match.
“My friends and I are always playing FIFA 13 – I mean constantly – plus I always go up against my team-mates [at Valencia]. Sometimes we stay on to play in the evenings, but only after we’ve done our training,” the 22-year-old told FIFA.com. With a broad smile and tangible enthusiasm, this product of Racing Santander's youth academy clearly enjoys creating and scoring virtual goals almost as much as he does real ones.
“This kid has something of the Guti in him,” Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has said of Canales, who spent 2010 and 2011 on the books of Los Merengues.
However, when it comes to his virtual skills, the star, who represented Spain at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011, is a bit more guarded than his former boss. “I acquit myself quite well, but the best guys at the club are [goalkeeper] Diego Alves and [midfielder] Jonathan Viera. You don’t want to come across that pair when we’re having competitions,” he said with a laugh.
Accustomed to being talked about by football commentators, Canales decided to try his hand on the other side of the microphone, commentating on the final between Maximo Ibanez and David Arboli, who both lined up as Real Madrid.
“I don’t play as Madrid, I should point out. I always compete as Valencia or my national team,” said the former UEFA European U-17 champion and winner of the Atlantic Cup with the Spanish U-18 side.
Canales also had some words of advice for the finalists, telling them to “relax and enjoy the moment” and that “things work out when you do that”. After watching Ibanez prevail, the Valencia star then returned to more familiar territory, pulling the strings on the virtual field of play.
In the colours of Valencia and with himself in his starting 11, Canales bravely took on the newly crowned champion, who this time lined up as Espanyol. Despite going down 2-0 to the national champ, there were still smiles all round afterwards.
“This is all about staying focused, conceiving moves and having a good time,” said the stylish forward at the end of the evening. “I’ve no complaints [about the result] but hopefully I’ll get a chance to settle the score one day,” he joked after handing over the prize and passage to the Grand Final to the delighted winner.
About the FIWC
The FIFA Interactive World Cup is the world’s largest video game tournament. Every year FIFA crowns a new world champion of virtual football, with the winner receiving USD 20,000 in prize money and an invitation to FIFA Ballon d’Or, where he or she can rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in the game.