When I received confirmation that I was going on an all-expenses paid trip to Madrid to cover the FIFA Interactive World Cup Grand Final on behalf of the GiveMeSport Academy, I thought it was too good to be true. But no sooner had I thought that, I was on the plane with GMF journalist, Patrick Surlis.
Once we arrived, there was no time to relax as we made the short journey to the first FIWC venue, and within 30 minutes I was interviewing World Cup winner, Christian Karembeu. This was the moment I realised it was not just a dream and I needed to make the most of the experience.
After the first evening's gameplay on a hotel roof terrace, the day was over before I even had time to blink. I submitted my first day round-up to GMS Academy, before setting off to visit the Spanish FA HQ.
This incorporated a tour around the museum and included the European Cup dropped under the bus by Sergio Ramos. It also allowed us to participate in a game of Futsal with Karembeu and former Real Madrid star Ruben De La Red. This was a particular highlight for me, being a fan of five-a-side, and is something I will never forget.
That evening’s play took us to a new stylish location, where I interviewed the Colombian entrant who had just knocked out last year’s champion. To be allowed such access was fantastic and allowed me to capture his excitement after what had just gone down.
The third and final day started sat on the top deck of a personalised FIWC double-decker bus for a tour around the city, with Karembeu sat behind me like it was just another day for him. Some free time allowed another article to be written, as I endeavoured to keep all the Academy contributors and GMF readers up-to-date with all the latest developments!
The Grand Final was played out that evening, in a lecture theatre-type layout, with the commentators on one side of the stage (Sky Sports pundit Alan McInally) and the competitors on the other, with the matches being beamed onto a cinema size screen for us to watch. The winner was Frenchman Bruce 'The Machine' Grannec, who pocketed a cool $20,000 and two tickets to next year’s Ballon d’Or - what a prize!
I also managed to take on the current Italian champion Mattia Guaraccino and only lost 2-1, although he was Lazio and I opted for Bayern Munich - I fancy my chances of being a competitor next year after that narrow defeat!
The final day started off slowly (thanks to the free beer the night before) but with a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu on the cards we made our way to the home of Real Madrid. We walked around the gigantic arena and took a number of photographs - an experience that will live long in the memory.
Going to Madrid with GMS Academy is a trip I will remember for the rest of my life and one that I hope will kick-start my own journalism career and allow me to make many more trips of this kind.
I cannot thank GiveMeFootball enough for the opportunity and promise any contributors from the Academy that it's well worth putting the effort into your work. After all, if you impress, you have every chance of winning one of the numerous prizes and rewards on offer.
For a day-by-day report of Paul's experience, click the links below:
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