Two South African FIFA players will return from London this week after having represented South Africa in the inaugural FIFA eNations Cup 2019. Ryan Bastos (22, from Sinister5 Gaming) and Shiaan Rugbeer (20, from Goliath Gaming) are the first two gamers to officially represent South Africa in an official national capacity at a global FIFA competition.
The FIFA eNations Cup saw 20 national teams representing all of FIFA’s confederations, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, CAF, OFC, AFC and UEFA in the global competition held in Maidstone, London, this past weekend.
In addition to international glory and a prize pool of $100,000 at stake for the teams, players selected by their member association for the FIFA eNations Cup had the chance to win up to 1,500 EA SPORTS FIFA 19 Global Series points, providing them with an opportunity to move up the FIFA 19 Global Series Rankings and take a significant step forward on the Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup™ 2019. Team South Africa, dubbed by FIFA as “the underdogs in a tough group” found themselves in Group A along with: England, Finland, France and Saudi Arabia. This was by far one of the toughest groups in the competition and the South African duo put up a good fight against some of the best FIFA players in the world. After an incredibly fierce competition, Team France came out victorious and was crowned the winners of the first ever FIFA eNations Cup.
The South African online qualifiers were held in March following the announcement by SAFA and its technology provider Inqaku, in partnership with NAG and Vodacom 4U, about South Africa’s participation in the inaugural FIFA eNations Cup – which is officially endorsed by FIFA as the National Championships of FIFA 19. SAFA Acting CEO, Mr. Russell Paul said the Association was honoured by the invitation to participate in the first-of-its-kind event, adding that it was part of SAFA’s future plans to be visibly active in esports. “We are thrilled to have been involved in such an exciting initiative. The ever-growing world of gaming and technology in football is a space that SAFA intends to be a part of. We need to be relevant to all South Africans and that includes young people who are actively involved in gaming,” said Paul.
Michael James, Senior Project Manager of rAge/Rush and publisher of NAG, is grateful to have had the opportunity to host these qualifiers on behalf of SAFA in South Africa. “At NAG we’ve always strived to grow gaming in South Africa by focusing on the players and driving to bring more casual gamers into this incredible pastime. The esports scene is growing fast here, and giving our local players exposure on and to the international scene is something we’ll all benefit from. Of course we couldn’t do any of it without collaboration and partnerships such as the ones we’ve formed with SAFA, Vodacom 4U and ACGL,” says James.
While this was the first time FIFA players have officially represented South Africa (wearing the green and gold), it’s not the first time SA FIFA players have qualified to compete on the world stage. In 2017, both Ryan and Shiaan qualified for the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC) in Doha; while in May 2018 Shiaan, Thabo “Yvng Savage” Moloi and Julio “the Beast” Bianchi” (PS4 players from Goliath Gaming) also qualified for the FIFA eWorld Cup Global series qualifiers in Amsterdam.
FIFA has confirmed that this will be the first of many more opportunities for players from South Africa and the African continent to compete in global FIFA events, and have noted that they will share more details on their social media channels in the coming months. Opportunities such as this are vital for South African gamers who have their sights set on competing at the highest level.
As gaming in South Africa grows, so are the pool of brands and companies throwing their support behind it, which is also necessary to provide more opportunities for gamers who are hoping to turn pro. Red Bull, American Tourister, Debonairs, Vodacom4U, EasyEquities, Afribiz Invest and more are among the brands showing SA esports love – and this list is set to grow in the coming months.