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Why South Africa continues to struggle to grow its Esports industry

An opinion piece on the lack of support for local FIFA players

This piece originally was posted to Twitter while I was commentating the Ooredoo Nation Champions Cup, the largest FIFA tournament in the Middle East. I believe the sentiments were worthwhile to include in a blog post.

I’ve been commentating on international esports events for close on 5 years now. I live in South Africa and I’ve been saying, for years, that South African FIFA players should be the focus and ARE the way we build gaming in South Africa. FIFA is the most played game in South Africa. It has a cult following. Casually but also from a competitive POV with massive sign ups for FIFA events.

This week I am in Qatar hosting the biggest FIFA tournament the region has ever seen. There is a World Champion here. FIFA influencers and top players from around the world. For the first time in my international commentating career I got to invite not one but THREE South African players onto the stage. 

Last night, I got to watch one of those players make the Finals on Saturday where he will face off against a World Champion.

There are kids waiting at the entrance to take photos with OUR players. My DMs are flooded with local FIFA enthusiasts asking where they can watch. Hell, people at my gym who say they aren’t gamers ask me about YvngSavage, Beast… they know these names and personalities.

So why are local brands sleeping on them? 

Quick caveat : I am aware of the very few brands not sleeping and doing what they can, this is aimed at the wider scene. 

Other than the support from their teams and team sponsors it blows my mind that STILL, despite making an impact globally in numerous competitions (this isn’t the only one they’ve done this at) there is no backing or support from corporates who claim to want to “build gaming”. Brands in Qatar have our players’ faces on giant banners. They’re being featured on international news networks and yet locally… not even R500 a month to help feed them while they make history.

Please don’t tell me about ROI. They have bigger social followings than many local gaming content creators. Their engagement is through the roof. They are KNOWN to not only casual gamers but the community globally. I know their stories, their struggles, I’ve written them and commentated on them. They’re inspirational. Not only do they uplift but they could sell.

So I’m writing this because I know I have a platform and I’m hoping a decision maker somewhere sees this. Stop sleeping on these players. They don’t need free gear. They need financial support to KEEP making history. And the benefit to you would be tenfold. If you’re serious about “growing gaming in South Africa”, I’ve just given you step 1 in how to do it. Start a conversation with these players reps. It’s been years of the same old same old. It isn’t working. Try this. 

I'd love to chat to you some more.

 

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