Will Spain extend FIWC reign?
© FIFA.com

If there is one footballing trend beyond dispute in recent years, it has been Spain’s position at the top of the international tree. European champions in 2008 and 2012, FIFA World Cup™ winners at South Africa 2010, La Roja have also had players continually in the running for prizes at the annual FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala.

Can the Spanish scene legitimately ask for any more? It is difficult but not impossible, particularly since the country can also lay claim to Alfonso Ramos, the only man to date to have twice won the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC). Winner of the ultimate virtual football competition in 2008 and 2012, this 24-year-old with a master’s degree in Physical Education is getting ready to defend his global crown in Madrid between 6 and 8 May.

“It’s always special when you think about playing on home soil. Spain is a football nation, and all the competitors who come here will experience a great atmosphere,” Ramos told FIFA.com.

But the champion is not the only Spaniard aiming for FIFA13 glory. Indeed, this effusive Madridista is just one of five – of a total of 21 finalists – set to take part in the upcoming virtual showpiece, the others being Rafael Riobo, Marc Arica, Daniel Cordera and Oscar Martin Lorenzo.

Respect within the rivalry
Faced with this abundance of Spanish title candidates, 17-year-old Cordera was happy to give his insider verdict: “Here there’s a really special feeling for football and people just love to play it, whether it’s real or virtual,” said the soon-to-be Grand Final debutant. “We’ve got some very good players like Ramos, the only two-time [FIWC] champion, and Oscar [Lorenzo] who is, in my view, the best in the world.”

Lorenzo, another Real Madrid fan, echoed his countryman’s views on the host nation’s strength in depth. “To be honest, I’m not at all surprised [to see five Spaniards in the Grand Final],” he told FIFA.com. “We’re one of the countries with the highest standard of FIFA13 players. We all compete with each other in online tournaments as well as at events in person, but even when we’re not playing we stay in touch. There’s a good friendship among the group.”

When quizzed on the advantages of playing in their own country, not having to cope with time-zone differences or lengthy travelling – factors that will affect those coming from other corners of Planet Football – featured high on these participants’ lists.

This issue aside, the Spanish contingent agreed that all the finalists are sure to enjoy a genuine fiesta ibérica at next week’s event. “Here you have Real Madrid, Atletico de Madrid and the Spanish national-team base. And everything with a good Spanish flavour,” said the holder Ramos.

“While it’s different to Dubai and Los Angeles [which have hosted previous Grand Finals], Madrid is still a city everyone’s keen to visit. It’s full of things to see,” chipped in Lorenzo, before signing off with a warning shot across the bows of the other finalists: “Playing at home doesn’t put any of us under extra pressure. On the contrary, it’ll motivate us more. Let’s hope it’s one of us that takes the title.”