The play-offs for the TAG Heuer Virtual Bundesliga (VBL) are done and dusted, with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox qualifiers doing battle last weekend for a finals berth. Plenty of the favourites came unstuck, including last year’s VBL winner Tim "TheStrxngeR" Katnawatos.
VfL e-players Timo Siep (PS4) and Benedikt Saltzer (Xbox) also failed to qualify for the Grand Final in May, but the surprise package was VfL Academy player Riad "itsRiaad" Fazlija, who made it into the tournament and then all the way to the PlayStation play-off final. We caught up with the Wolves youth team e-player briefly to talk about the previous weekend’s events and about the challenge that lies ahead in the final.
Riad, you only just made it through the group stage, picking up four points in three games. Did you really think that you’d go on to qualify for the VBL Grand Final?
Riad Fazlija: "After the group games, it became pretty clear to me that I simply needed to take it one game at a time. So when I made it through against some tough opponents, that made me all the prouder at the end of the day."
You have every reason to be proud of yourself – you’re the only VfL e-player to make it through to the final tournament.
Riad: "It is indeed an honour to be able to represent VfL in the final, but it would have been even nicer if one or two of my team-mates had made it through as well. I was just as wrapped up in the other guys’ games as when I played myself. Now I’ll just have to try to represent the club to the best of my abilities, make the guys proud and give it 100 per cent."
You knocked out last year’s winner, Tim "TheStrxngeR" Katnawatos, in the quarter-finals of the VBL play-offs. How did that feel, and did that give you the confidence you needed to see off Antonio "Antonio Radelja" Radelja in the decider in the next round?
Riad: "The feedback I got after the match was incredible and it showed me that when I’m fully focused, I can really put in some good performances. It was unbelievable how the crowd spurred me on. We played up on the stage, so everyone who was there was able to follow the game live. The fans really were like the 12th man for me. In the end though, I earned a victory against one of the top players – the current German champion – and my motivation levels after that were so high that I just wanted to go out and achieve even more. But I knew that despite the fact that Antonio is a relative unknown on the scene, I’d have to take the match very seriously. In the quarter-finals, he’d just seen off Cihan Yasarlar from RB Leipzig who is one Germany’s best players. So when I also managed to win that match against him, I was absolutely over the moon."