To football fans, Alan McInally is best known for his exploits on the pitch in the 1980s and early 1990s at the likes of Celtic, Aston Villa and Bayern Munich. Virtual football fans however will know the 6 ft 1 inch former striker for providing live commentary at a variety of live events for the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2013, including the three-day Grand Final in Madrid. FIFA.com sat down for an interview with the voice of the Grand Final.
“I loved the atmosphere, there's good camaraderie between the players, and it's really good fun,” McInally says of his Madrid experience. “I can't play football anymore but this is a really good replacement for me.”
The Scotsman provided some exciting commentary throughout the three-day Grand Final alongside co-commentator Paul Chaloner. “I love football, I love the game, it's difficult for me to go to a football match and sit and not say something. People that have watched me on television have said "You can't really be that excited?” but I genuinely am. Trust me, I’m no actor!”
“I suppose I get excited at both really," McInally says when asked about the differences between commentating on real and virtual football matches. "Doing something like the FIFA Interactive World Cup, you have to put yourself into a situation where you think the game is real, because that's how the players see it.”
It’s not uncommon for a virtual footballer to remember every movement, every pass and every shot taken during a competitive match and yet have no recollection of anything else that took place around them. There are always exceptions to every rule however, as Alan found out first hand in Madrid. “I had one really nice comment from the American kid,” the Scotsman says. “He said that he could hear me commentating and that it really motivated him and gave him an extra boost to try and keep in the game.”
The game Alan is referring to was one of the biggest group stage surprises. First-time finalist Juan Ambriz was playing eventual champion Bruce Grannec. The match was streamed live from the rooftop of the Hotel ME Reina Victoria. “When I saw that we were going to play on the main stage that made it worse, I was shaking, I was nervous. It made me play like never before,” Juan told FIFA.com. “During the game I was listening to Alan’s commentary. That pumped me up. It was building up my confidence a lot.” Juan ended up winning the game 1-0, a result that only a legendary few have ever managed to pull off at the FIWC against the French player dubbed The Machine.
“It's quite humbling when somebody says something like that to you.” Alan says of the Californian’s compliment. “And I didn't say it because I wanted Grannec to get beat. I just said: “keep with it, your still in the game, you’re not out the game, there's no need to give up”. You should never give up. Never give up at anything. That was my attitude when I played football and I think it should be the same for this.”
Admittedly the Scotsman is more proficient in virtual football from the commentary box than from the player’s seat, with his highest level of virtual competition so far being FIFA 13 matches played at his neighbour’s house. “We played at the wrong time, because the technical aspect of the games wasn't really there,” Alan says, looking back on playing video games during his professional football days. “I can mostly remember playing cards with my teammates and maybe going out with them on a Friday night.”
Asked if playing virtual football can make a footballer a better player, Alan believes the benefits are tangible: “Now, you immerse yourself even more in the game and you can develop a better tactical awareness within the game. I’m sure that players have sat in team meetings and their manager has complimented them on something they have done that they picked up the day before by playing FIFA on the console.”