Date: November 3-4, 2001.
Place: Dartford, UK.
What had initially seemed to all of us like a fairy tale actually happened. 11 years after its release, the best computer game of all times had its official World Cup tournament. 31 players from 8 different countries would compete for the title of the Kick Off 2 World Champion!
Sure, not everyone were as good as they had been back in 1990. Back then most
of us were teenagers, with little more to worry about than school. Now we have
jobs, mortgages, wives, children. So what made us travel to a different country
just to play a computer game? Maybe we wanted to feel like kids again. Maybe
we saw a chance to fulfil a life dream. Or maybe we just wanted to be able to
say I WAS THERE.
The results were less important than the actual event. Nevertheless,
I can't help but feel proud of my victory, as I was the Kick Off 2 World Champion,
and I would be until the next tournament, which would be held in Greece. The
Italian Gianluca Troiano won the best goal average award, while the Dutch Niels
won the worst player award.
Steve Camber lead this very interesting group, undefeated. You can tell how close it was just by the fact that it had more draws than any other group, and quite a few matches won by a single goal. Riemer Poelstra, one of the semi-finalists, had a terrible beginning but managed to qualify mostly thanks to Oliver Shleede's suicide (he drew against the 7th and the 8th player)!
As if the lack of practice wasn't enough for Steve Screech, he found himself in the most difficult group! The top 4 players were considerably better than the other ones. They showed no respect to either the programmer of the game, or the webmaster of the KOA's site. Nazim Choudhury impressed everybody with his frantic attacking skills, however the defeat against a more mature Martin Beard cost him the second place. Alkis Polyrakis made clear to everybody that he would be among the favorites for the final.
Group C had 7 players instead of 8, because of Darren Gurney's absence. It was dominated by Mark Poelstra. The giant from Groningen was the only player who managed nothing but victories in Round 1. Vasilis Kafiris, who had impressed the participants with his skills on Friday night's practice games, surprised everyone by starting with 3 defeats! He managed to find his courage again, and after a stressful 1-0 match against Filippo Della Bianca he qualified to the next round instead of the Italian.
Gianluca Troiano had no problems in the battle for Group D's first place. The only person he didn't manage to beat was Kees Van den Berg, whose defense was quite impressive. Most people though had their eyes on Danny Dinneen! The Irish had told us that he preferred playing Kick Off 2 at 50% of speed, which (as people thought) made him a favorite for the worst player trophy! Instead, Danny managed three victories and one draw before loosing the crucial match to Klaus Lederer.
We all knew the second round was going to be different. 16 quality players divided in 4 groups, every mistake could be fatal at this point. And we were right; if you take a close look at the results, you'll notice that each group's second place was decided by a single goal! Had Jakob (or Robert), Kees, Gunther (or Martin) and James Lockerbie scored one more goal in the crucial matches, they'd have qualified to the quarter finals. Only Anthony Kyne and Vasilis Kafiris lost all three of their games.
Group E was the most interesting one, only one big victory and five really close matches. It featured perhaps the greatest game of the whole tournament, Robert - Jacob 4-5. Too bad they both lost in that game; Robert because a draw would have been enough, Jacob because the 4 goals he conceived made him lose the second place due to the goals difference.
Meanwhile, Alkis, Mark and Gianluca continued to win. It looked like one of those three would be the world champion. Not even Nazim managed to make the Italian's life harder. Mark and Alkis had a difficult time against two players who did not make it to the quarter finals, Martin and Kees. At least Kees went home knowing he did his best against two of the tournament's favorites, Gianluca and Alkis.
Eight players left in the competition. 4 pairs took their places in front of the Amigas. The big match everyone was waiting for was the one between Nazim and Mark. Not many people believed the English player had a chance against the younger Poelstra brother, who had 9 victories in 9 games before that matchup. However, Nazim's excellent attacking skills surprised Mark in the beginning. A 4-0 lead for Nazim. Mark manages to recover from the shock just in time to score 2 goals. In the other matches, Alkis and Gianluca managed a 2 goals victory, while Riemer and Steve's result was 1-1. Everything was open in the rematches.
Gianluca won the second leg against Klaus easily. Alkis scored an early goal against James, who tried his best but could do nothing more than equalize. Riemer's victory by a single goal was a mini surprise, as a player who finished 4th in his group in Round 1 made it to the semi-finals. Would Nazim succeed in defending his two goals advantage? Well, he managed to score four times again, but this time it wasn't enough. Mark triumphs with a 9-8 overall score. What a matchup!
Just a handfull of matches left in the tournament, and you can feel the pressure among the players and the spectators. The projector is connected to the Amiga, the matches will now be displayed on a big screen.
First semi-final: Alkis versus Riemer. Again. Last time they had played, it was a 7-0 victory for the Greek player. Could the Dutch do better this time? He took the lead in the first few seconds with a penalty kick, but that was it. 5-1, Alkis was practically already in the final.
Second semi-final: Mark versus Gianluca. An early final? The undefeated Italian had the best defence of the tournament, averaging only one goal against his team per game. However, Mark managed to score 6 goals against him! 6-3, Gianluca's only defeat in the tournament.
Alkis defeated Riemer for the third time. Gianluca tried but couldn't do more than a single goal victory. He would have to settle for the 3rd place, and the top scorer trophy.
The big event was about to begin. We took the final picture before the kick off (the tallest player of the tourney against the shortest one, funny). We'd toss a coin to see who gets Team A. Mark chooses heads. Steve flips it. Heads. He gets Team A, Alkis gets Team B.
Mark selects a 4-2-4 formation, while Alkis selects a 5-3-2. The final would last 20 minutes instead of the usual 10.
Here's what happened next in numbers:
That's how Alkis Polyrakis won the first Kick Off 2 World Championship. Let's take a look at the stats.
Goals in the final (Click to enlarge):