As qualification for the 2009 FIFA Interactive World Cup closes, the top 32 virtual footballers on the planet turn their eyes to the final.
Barcelona is steeped in football history. From Paolo Rossi's brace in the 1982 World Cup semi-final, to Spain's gold medal-winning performance at the 1992 Olympic Games, F.C. Barcelona's Camp Nou turf has been blessed by the greatest feet in world football. And on May 2, 2009, this historic city's Port Olimpic will host the best FIFA 09 players in the world at the FIFA Interactive World Cup Final.
An incredible 500,000 players competed to be one of the final 32, both online via PlayStation Network and at live qualifier events in major cities across the world. Such was the competition for places, England's Chris Bullard, overall winner in 2005, travelled to Spain to claim his spot, having narrowly missed out at the UK live qualifier.
Other players to watch out for are reigning champion Alfonso Ramos, who qualified online, and 2006 winner Andries Smit, of the Netherlands.
Not only are they playing to prove their skill, the winner will receive a cheque for USD 20,000, a Kia Soul car and one prize that money can't buy - the chance to collect their trophy at the 2010 FIFA World Player Gala in front of football glitterati. The losing finalist will go home with USD 5,000 and third place wins USD 1,000.
"With more than half a million participants, the FIFA Interactive World Cup has set new records and I am really impressed how fast this tournament is growing," said FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer. "I am a passionate gamer myself and I am really looking forward to learning some new tricks from the world's best virtual football players."
It's not just on-screen action that will draw spectators to Port Olimpic; throughout the day there will be live music from guest bands and DJs, freestyle football demonstrations from Komball and a training clinic with FIFA's beach soccer player of 2008, Ramiro Amarelle. There will also be interactive arenas where visitors can try the latest PlayStation games.
"This year's final in Barcelona promises to be a fantastic event, with great football, top class entertainment and a perfect venue," said Darren Carter, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's Vice President of consumer marketing. "This season's FIFA Interactive World Cup has most certainly been the best yet and we look forward to welcoming the finalists to Barcelona in May."
If you're in Barcelona on May 2, 2009, come along to Port Olimpic from 1.15pm to cheer on the players and check out the entertainment - admission is free.
2009 FIFA Interactive World Cup finalists:
1. Stephen Coorey (Australia)
2. Jason Mac (Australia)
3. Michael Pommer (Australia)
4. Markus Serkan Boyer (Austria)
5. Andre Buffo (Brazil)
6. Samuel Lage Liberato (Brazil)
7. Radim Kluka (Czech Republic)
8. Frederik Nordmark Laursen (Denmark)
9. Ryan Hayward (England)
10. Chris Bullard (England)
11. Danny Taylor (England)
12. Adam Winster (England)
13. Hesham Khater (Egypt)
14. Bruce Grannec (France)
15. Patrick Straschek (Germany)
16. Andries Smit (Holland)
17. Péter Kovács (Hungary)
18. Daniele D'Alterio (Italy)
19. Omar Jaleel (India)
20. Mergim Sadriji (Switzerland)
21. Jose Alberto Reyes Loera (Mexico)
22. Ruben Morales Zerecero (Mexico)
23. Daniel Sykes (New Zealand)
24. Marcin Raptis (Poland)
25. Francisco Cruz (Portugal)
26. Mohammed Nasser Al Khathlan (Saudi Arabia)
27. Gordon Butler (South Africa)
28. Alfonso Ramos Cuevas (Spain)
29. Marcus Lee (Singapore)
30. Mustafa Aguez (Turkey)
31. Giuseppe Guastelle (USA)
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