"A great feeling"

To be among the 16 best players in such a renowned competition, and to be able to fight for the German title in the videogame FIFA 21, is a huge achievement for an eSports player. It’s the result of working hard, performing well and having the necessary mental strength to prevail. “It’s a really cool feeling,” begins Christoph 'BSC Chrissi' Strietzel. “Everyone wanted to get through and be in this final tournament, so for me to have done it is a great feeling!” We spoke to the Berlin-born Strietzel ahead of the tournament, which will take place from 4th to 6th June, to chat about challenges, preparations and his route to the final.

Chrissi, congratulations first of all on making the VBL Grand Final! How does it feel to be among the best 16 players on Xbox and to have the chance to play for the German title?
Strietzel: Thanks a lot! It’s a really cool feeling, especially because I didn’t necessarily expect it given the strong 64-player field. Everyone wanted to get through and be in this final tournament, so for me to have done it is a great feeling!

You had a tough start to the competition but grew stronger game by game and managed to reach the final tournament. How do you explain that improvement? Did you change things up at all?
Strietzel: The start was difficult. I had to play a penalty shoot-out right in the first game, which I lost, and I had to battle again in round two. I was on the brink and could only afford one more defeat, so I thought about changing something. I switched formation, which isn’t really something I do too often during an ongoing competition. But in this situation it helped me to successfully navigate the remaining games and to progress in the end!

You beat Wolfsburg’s 'BeneCR7x' and Bayer Leverkusen’s 'B04 Dubzje' in the knock-out rounds. How did you find those games?
Strietzel: They were two very different encounters. Against Bene I lead 2-0 until the 80th minute of the first leg but then I gave up an equaliser in the last ten. The second leg was really draining. I equalised late on and then finally won it in extra time. On the whole, it was really exciting and dramatic (grins). Against Dubzje, I scored four in one half during the first leg, but then I gave up two big chances and a consolation goal while playing with an extra man, meaning it was 4-1 in the end. I had some issues in the second game but I progressed on aggregate despite losing 3-1. So now I’m into the final rounds, even though it was tight once again.

Can you explain why that second leg against Bene was so dramatic?
Strietzel: The whole time I had it in the back of my head how unnecessary it was to have let the opponent back in and to need extra-time. I could have been 6-0 or 7-0 up but I didn’t put the game to bed and that made it a bit nervy. Luckily I was able to concentrate to the end and win it anyway.

Now then: the endgame! How will you prepare for the VBL Grand Final?
Strietzel: First of all I will keep training with the changes that I made during the tournament. They were the key! The new system and passing style suit me better right now. Now I have to work hard at both, both with my close friends, like my teammate Eren, and with external opponents.

What’s the first thing you would do if you were to lift the trophy?
Strietzel: That would obviously be a real dream come true, but I’m not thinking about that right now. First I have to work my way through the competition – if I go on to win it, we can talk about this then… (laughs).