Thursday 14 January 2016, 09:58

Alshehri: This experience wasn’t only for me

Abdulaziz Alshehri made history in 2015 when he became the first ever player from Asia to win the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC). As the official largest gaming tournament in the world since 2010 (according to the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition), the FIWC rewards the year’s best player of the EA SPORTS™ FIFA franchise with USD 20,000 and a trip to the FIFA Ballon d’Or.

Since his victory at the Munich Grand Final in 2015, the Saudi Arabian gamer has been patiently waiting for his trip to the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015. That moment finally arrived earlier this week when he flew in to Zurich for three unforgettable days. sat down with Abdulaziz on his final day in Zurich to reflect on an adventure packed with surreal encounters, VIP treatment and priceless moments. Prior to your trip, you had seen all the photos and videos and heard all the stories from previous FIWC champions. Now that you have experienced it for yourself, did your trip to the FIFA Ballon d’Or live up to your expectations? Abdulaziz Alshehri:It was a totally different experience to what I had seen on TV and YouTube. To feel it and live it, I really cannot begin to describe the differences. Being here right now, I can’t tell which is the best moment of my life, winning the trophy in Munich or being here with the stars.

Let’s talk a little about the Champion’s Ride, the stretch limousine that escorted you all over the city and came equipped with a PlayStation®4 and flat-screen TV. Did you expect that? Honestly, what a great idea. I got to take Kaka, Carli Lloyd and Celia Sasic for a ride in the limousine and play some FIFA with them. I enjoyed very single moment in that limousine. It definitelty made me feel like a Champion. Who surprised you the most with their FIFA skills?With Kaka and Sasic we actually played together on the same team. It was so much fun. We talked before and we agreed that we’d play together instead of as opponents. It was a nice change for me.

Not long after you landed in Zurich you were already hanging out with Kaka. How was that? I’m one of Kaka’s many fans. At his peak, he was the best. When I realised he would hang out in the limousine with me I screamed. He was a really cool guy. Really humble. He has always been a gentleman on the pitch, but now having met him, I think he’s even more of a gentleman.

Is there any moment that stands out from everything you were able to experience in Zurich? Yes. There was a moment in the limousine where Kaka took out his own phone and asked if me if we could take a selfie together. That was really special.

In the Final of Munich 2015 you scored a hat-trick with virtual Cristiano Ronaldo to win the world title. A few months later you are at Zurich's Kongresshaus with the real-life Ronaldo handing you your FIWC Champion Certificate. How surreal was that?He walked up to me backstage before the Press Conference for the men’s nominees. We shook hands and talked for a while. He was so lovely. He was happy, relaxed and smiling. He told me that he was proud to give me this certificate and finally, he hugged me and then left. It was beyond surreal.

Players like Pogba made a big splash on the red carpet with their sharp suits, but you also drew a lot of attention for your outfit. What made you decide to wear traditional Saudi dress to the ceremony? I wore it because I wanted to show that this experience wasn’t only for me. It was for the whole of the Middle East and for my home country of Saudi Arabia. This is something I feel proud of. I felt that I was here to represent my country and the region. That’s why I wore the traditional Saudi dress to the ceremony.

Your brother was here with you. What did it mean to share the experience with him?He has been with me since the beginning. Dubai, Madrid, Munich, the Ballon d’Or and of course he will be with me again in New York. When we came back after the ceremony we had a moment where we realised how far we had come together.

You were able to get a tour of the FIFA World Football Museum which opens to the public next month. Did you enjoy the museum?There are so many rare pieces of football history in there. I felt very lucky to be there. It was a huge experience.

What was your favourite item in the museum’s collection?I actually saw my trophy there in the exhibit! To see the FIFA Interactive World Cup trophy sitting amongst the biggest trophies for men’s and women’s football was an honour. Honestly though, I think my FIWC trophy is better than the Ballon d’Or.