Halfway through the two-legged championship series, Mohamad Al-Bacha looked done for. The teenager was interviewed after finishing the first game on his preferred console in a disappointing 2-2 draw, and his arms were awkwardly crossed and body hunched over as he swiftly answered questions.
The 17-year-old looked as worried as could be and with good reason, but ultimately pushed past all the nerves to be crowned the 2016 FIFA Interactive World Cup champion.
Al-Bacha pulled off a remarkable comeback at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Tuesday night, scoring two away goals in the final minutes of the second leg of the FIWC final against Sean Allen of England.
After finding himself down 5-3 on aggregate with only seconds, and virtual minutes, remaining, Al-Bacha somehow dug deep to score twice in stoppage time and prevail. The first goal came in the 90th minute following a free kick played short, and the winner was a quick counterattack just before the death.
Al-Bacha’s comeback was jaw-dropping, to say the least, but more importantly it won him the tournament.
“I had to go full offensive,” said Al-Bacha of his search for the last goal. “I was playing a 4-2-4 (formation) and it was very important to just get up because it was the 90th minute. I had like one minute of FIFA time, which is like 10 seconds, and it was enough time to get everything up front.
“I scored and I just went crazy.”
The passionate youngster had admittedly been feeling the pressure prior to that. He had taken three separate leads in the series vs. Allen, but surrendered equalizers every time.
Al-Bacha wound up falling behind, but bounced back in the most epic of ways to win $20,000, a ticket to the next Ballon d’Or ceremony, and an automatic spot in the 2017 FIFA Interactive World Cup.
Al-Bacha is considering using some of his prize money to buy a car since he soon turns 18, but sounds even more excited about the chance to meet some of his favourite players at next year’s Ballon d’Or gala.
“Going to Ballon d’Or is every single football fans’ wish,” said Al-Bacha before the games got underway on Tuesday. “If I win the tournament here and I go to the Ballon d’Or, I’d like to see [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Lionel] Messi. Just being in touch with them, and maybe taking some pictures because they’re amazing persons.
“They are the stars of football, and they’re just amazing.”
Ronaldo and Messi might currently be the biggest stars of the beautiful game, but Al-Bacha is now a star in his own right. The youngster proved on Tuesday that he is the crème de la crème of the virtual version of the sport, and, like his heroes, did so while entertaining fans across the world.
“It’s just amazing,” said Al-Bacha. “This is my first time I actually won a big, big, big tournament. It’s the biggest in the world, so it means everything as a competitive FIFA player.”