Practically every young person with a keen interest in football has spent at least one rainy day in the company of the EA SPORTS FIFA games. Understandably, the players who attract the most admiration are those who grace the cover, something David Alaba remembers well from his own youth. Since then, he has been chosen to feature on the front of the game three times, fulfilling a long-held dream.
With this in mind, there was no more suitable guest to present the new champion with the trophy after the final of the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2015 in Munich than the versatile Austria and Bayern Munich player. FIFA.com spoke with the 22-year-old from Vienna about his console skills, what it is like to play as yourself and his assessment of the past season.
*How often do you play PlayStation? *I often find myself sitting in front of the console. Friends from Vienna visit me a lot, and when the weather’s bad we usually end up playing FIFA.
How good a gamer are you, and how do you match up to your team-mates at Bayern?
We’ve got some really good gamers in our squad. Basti [Schweinsteiger] and Thomas [Muller] play the game extremely well, but I think I’m up there with them.
You have already featured on the cover of the FIFA games. Is that something special for you?I can’t describe the feeling; it was a childhood dream come true. I played the game all the time when I was younger and used to marvel at the stars on the cover. To be on the cover myself was something really special.
Can you still remember the moment when you were first available to select as a player?I can remember it very clearly as I was playing with the team. It was great fun to be able to play as yourself – it’s really cool.
Do you ever play with your own character?I play for one of the best clubs in the world and the same is true in the game, so I very often end up picking myself.
Do you ever play particular matches from the past like a Champions League final or important matches in the future?I do that sometimes with my friends but not when I’m away somewhere with the team. If we’re at a training camp, for example, we always play with completely different sides.
*What’s your favourite team in the game? *Bayern.
*Who’s your favourite outfield player in Europe? *Franck Ribery.
*Messi or Ronaldo? *They’re two different guys on the console. Messi is very strong on the ball and you can do some excellent turns with him. You can shoot extremely well with Ronaldo and he’s very fast in a straight line in the virtual game. In real life you can’t compare the two. We’re talking about two world-class players who are justifiably right up there.
*Is there anything from virtual football that you can transfer into the real game or vice-versa? *A little perhaps. The FIFA games are getting more and more realistic. You can see it from one year to the next. Whenever I play on the console I try to be influenced by my own experience.
How would you summarise the season with Bayern from your point of view? You suffered two serious injuries…
Yes, for me personally the season had plenty of ups and downs. Of course, there were some good games and pleasant experiences with the team out on the pitch, but there were also plenty of injury setbacks, first on my right knee and then on my left. That wasn’t easy for me, but I’ve set myself new goals and I’ll try my best to achieve them.
*What are these goals? *They’re ones I set for myself so that I have something to work towards, but naturally I first want to get healthy and fit again and get back out on to the pitch to help the team.
It was the first season in which you’ve played alongside newly crowned world champions. Did that increase your desire to take part in a World Cup?Definitely. Every footballer wants to take part in a World Cup with his country. As far as Austria are concerned, our first target is to go to France and play at EURO 2016. Although that’s still a long way off, things are looking very good.
The FIFA U-20 World Cup is currently being contested in New Zealand and Austria are playing there too. Do you follow the country’s youth teams?
You bet. I played for the youth team and came through every age group. I know we’re very good at developing young players in Austria, and with such talented youngsters in our ranks I try to follow their progress. We senior players have been watching how they’re getting on and we’re very proud of the lads.
How do you see your team’s chances?
It’s a tournament so anything can happen, as we’ve seen so many times before. I don’t think we’ve gone to the World Cup in vain. The team earned the right to be there and worked hard for it. I wish every single member of the squad the best of luck and hope they make Austria proud.