26.03.2019
Inside EN

"Unbelievable how the crowd spurred me on"

VfL Academy player Riad Fazlija qualifies for VBL Grand Final.

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."

What are your aims for the Grand Final?

Riad: "First off, I want to make it out of my group, then I’ll take it once game at a time. That worked for me in the play-offs and anyway, I’m not keen on setting big targets in advance. I’d obviously love to win the title but first and foremost, I need to set myself realistic aims."

How are the preparations going?

Riad: "I will probably see with Juli (Julius Kühle) and Timo (Timo Siep) about when they have the time to have a few practice matches. I’ll also obviously sit down with my coach Kennet to talk through some of the important aspects and analyse my practice matches."

Who do you think the favourites will be in the final?

Riad: "The best German e-players will all be there: "Mo Auba", "MegaBit, Dr. Erhano", "Marlut", "Latka" and plenty more. But we all know what FIFA’s like. If you have a bad day, you might end up going out in the group stage. In the play-offs, you could see that we have a whole host of untapped talents in Germany, but I would class "Mo" and "Megabit" as the favourites. It wouldn’t come as a surprise though if we had an upset this year and a "no-name" became German champion."

To the VfL e-Sport channel on Twitter

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