England’s four-decade wait for a FIFA world champion is finally over, albeit on the interactive stage. On Sunday (18 December), Chris Bullard from Ipswich (England) won the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2005, and with it, the title of FIFA Interactive World Player 2005. In a thrilling final in “The Brewery”, London, the ten best players of EA Sports FIFA 06 on Xbox went head-to-head for the honour of receiving the award on stage alongside football stars such as Ronaldinho (Brazil), Shannon Boxx (USA), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) and Frank Lampard (England) during the FIFA World Player Gala on Monday. In the tense final, Chris Bullard’s ten-man England team defeated Hungary’s Gabor Makos’ Brazil side 5-2 thanks to a Michael Owen brace and a Wayne Rooney hat trick. Mexico’s Ruben Morales secured third place with a 7-6 victory over Spain’s Javier Devis Lara.
“The whole tournament was just brilliant. I have always wanted to win for my country. It’s just a dream come true, the best present I could ever have wished for. When my favourite player, Frank Lampard, was sent off in the 24th minute, I didn’t even think about winning anymore. But now I can represent England on stage alongside major stars, maybe even with my idol, Frank Lampard,” beamed Bullard after his victory in London.
This unique gaming jamboree pitted more than 7,000 players from 25 countries against each other between 15 October and 10 December 2005, making stops in eight regional tournaments across all six confederations. This year’s virtual world champion, Chris Bullard, had secured his ticket for the grand final only hours before in the Xbox Live tournament, which was held for the first time in addition to the eight offline regional tournaments.
Hundreds of spectators closely followed the action on a giant screen as the virtual and “real” football worlds came seamlessly together. Successful one-twos and shots on goal at the merest touch of a button highlighted the pure fascination of football. The finalists showed great skill in guiding their heroes – Ronaldinho and co. – over the virtual pitch in much the same way as the “true” superstars of the game. All of the finalists had trained for weeks on end to come this far.
The FIFA Interactive World Cup unites the passion for football and the world of interactive entertainment. With the help of this innovative project, FIFA can explore further opportunities to promote and develop the game of football in all its guises worldwide. This groundbreaking move also ensured that FIFA was the first international sports body to launch a new tradition and to test the skills of footballers in a whole new manner.