At the age of just 24, Alfonso Ramos has already amassed an honours list that would be the envy of many of the game’s leading pros. An outrageously gifted performer on the virtual scene, the Spaniard has two FIFA Interactive World Cup crowns under his belt and is hoping to add a third come 8 May 2013 – the date of the third and decisive day of action at the Grand Final in Madrid.
“Going for a third crown on home soil will be very special, no doubt about it,” said a visibly proud Ramos, when speaking to FIFA.com, before swatting away any possible preconceptions about these extraordinary gamers. “People think that we’re all overweight ‘freaks’, who spend 24 hours a day locked away at home in front of the computer,” added a smiling Ramos, who manages to find the time to coach a local U-10s team, complete a teaching degree specialising in physical education and hang out with his friends.
“That stereotype which is applied to us gamers is totally different to what’s really the case,” he continued. “I know nearly everyone who’ll be competing in Madrid and I can tell you we’re totally normal people. I watch football, listen to music and I’ve completed my studies. The difference is that playing FIFA is one of my favourite pastimes, but it's nothing more than that.”
No more, but no less. Ever since he first decided to try his luck on the FIWC stage, Ramos, who shares just a few of his tricks of the trade with over 4,000 followers on Twitter (“but not all my secrets, as some of them could prove decisive in winning the final”), has enjoyed a host of memorable moments.
“This tournament has given me the chance to have some incredible experiences,” said the two-time world champ. “Over and above the cash prize and the chance to see places like Dubai and Los Angeles, I’d say my biggest highlight was taking part at the Ballon d’Or Gala.”
On two occasions, in 2008 and 2013, the Spaniard was on the guest list for the exclusive Gala in Zurich, where he met global stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as beating Barça and Spain’s Gerard Pique on FIFA. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he recalled. “Rubbing shoulders with the world’s best players and being treated like a world star is something that you’ll never forget.”
However, should he wish to reach the Gala for the third time, Ramos will have to find his best form at the Grand Final in his hometown of Madrid, held between 6 and 8 May. “This is a city that’s passionate about football and which will welcome everyone with typical Spanish gusto, the way it should be,” said the title holder, who’s currently training for around two hours a day.
His pre-competition preparations include trying out a variety of different tactics and formations, with both possession football and lethal counter-attacking usually to the fore: “I like to play on the break, but because I’m the world champion my opponents tend to show me a certain respect,” he explained. “When that’s the case, I have to get control of the ball, be patient and try and probe for gaps.”
Combining patience, experience and thirst for success, Ramos’ pedigree must put him among the favourites for this year’s title. Yet despite the variations he throws into his training, two things are near-constants whenever he picks up his controller: “I’ll keep playing as Real Madrid, with a formation that’s similar to 4-4-2.”