After enjoying the Grand Final after-party on Sugarloaf Mountain well into the night, the 20 Grand Finalists for the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2014 woke up on their final morning in Brazil to embark on one last activity; a pilgrimage - alongside the other 74,220 fans that would make up the official attendance - to the Maracana for the France-Germany Quarterfinal of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™.
One night prior, Ronaldo had visited the Grand Final, bringing the history of the real world cup to the virtual one. Today, it was new FIWC champion August Rosenmeier’s turn to merge the virtual world cup with the real thing. Shortly before kick off, the giant screens within the Maracana displayed highlights from August’s victory on the Sugarloaf. The Dane watched himself on the big screen from his seat in the stadium in awe. Bringing the FIWC to Rio De Janeiro during the actual 2014 FIFA World Cup™ had always ensured that virtual football would meet real like never before, but in that moment the two tournaments could not have been any closer.
Watching the game, Rosenmeier was in high spirits. The FIWC title was packed away in his suitcase, ready for the journey to its new home in Denmark and the 18-year old could sit back in his seat and watch the match as a neutral. “I expected something amazing, but I didn’t expect this,” August said of his first ever experience of a World Cup game. “Seeing the passion of all the German and French fans. Hearing them sing. It’s so great to be part of it.”
Sitting just a few seats away from August, outgoing champion Bruce Grannec was in an altogether different mood. With his French scarf around his shoulders, always calm Bruce still managed a smile after watching Les Bleus suffer defeat to Germany thanks to a 13th minute Matts Hummels header. The Brazilian ride has been a bittersweet one for Grannec. After four Grand Finals and four podium finishes, his fifth Grand Final in Brazil would be his worst ever performance at the event.
“I’m disappointed. I think France played better,” said Bruce reflecting on the match. “But this,” he said, turning around to look into the stands as French voices singing “Allez Les Bleus” still filled small pockets of the Maracana. “This was beautiful.”
Bruce’s coach Alan ‘Zal’ Brin’ perhaps externalized the Machine’s hidden feelings. Hunched over in his seat, wearing a replica French jersey from 1998 and a Brazil scarf wrapped around his head, Zal shut his eyes tightly. The tears came quickly as the row of German fans in front of him sang victory songs. The excitement and anticipation had all been too much. Two days earlier, Zal had landed in Brazil. The World Cup was still squarely in his nation’s sites and his best friend was still the FIWC champion. Today, sitting in the Maracana, the dreams of virtual and real world titles for France, were all over.
In one of those small and wonderful World Cup moments, a young girl wearing a Brazil jersey approached the French stranger and hugged him, sharing some words of encouragement in his ear. An older lady wearing a Germany jersey would do the same on the way out of the stadium. It was a moment worthy of David Luiz and James’s embrace after Colombia’s exit at the hands of Brazil later that day. Bruce and his coach may have experienced defeat in the real and virtual world cup, but they left having experienced the range of emotions, euphoric and tragic, that the World Cup has to offer. “This is football,” Bruce said to Zal on the way out, an arm wrapped around his shoulders. “Next time we win.”