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Africa has a new Fifa king

Covid has hit Africa’s biggest Fifa tournament, with the winning pot for this year’s VS Gaming Fifa tournament dropping from R500 000 to R100 000. The grand finale was also delayed and was meant to be  played at Comic Con Africa in Cape Town earlier this year. 

Covid stopped this. 

On Sunday, the now virtual tournament reached its conclusion with Abubakar Akhalwaya from Pirates eSports taking on Kaylan Moodley from MBC eSports. Both used 2018 World Cup winners France.

That team is best suited for Fifa20, with the insane pace of players such as Kylian Mbappe, Anthony Martial and Ousmane Dembele up front. Their midfield is well balanced with highly rated players such as N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba. And, lastly, the French defence is capped off with Raphael Varane, who is arguably the best defensive player in the game.

Moodley was the favourite, coming off a 60-win streak in his Fifa Ultimate Team Weekend League. But Akhalwaya won comfortably, winning the first double header 3-1 and the second 4-1.

The rather one-sided match left one feeling underwhelmed, thanks to the virtual nature of the tournament. Promotion was muted and, although streamed on Twitch, there were few ways to hear about the final.  

Akhalwaya told the Mail & Guardian he started the tournament in the loser’s bracket, performing poorly at first. But having represented South Africa at the Fifa Interactive World Cup seven times, he had the advantage of experience. 

Akhalwaya (35) had been battling kidney failure since 2019 February and undergoing dialysis twice a week. In the middle of all this, he lost his father and his son, which eventually led him to take a six-month break from the Pirates eSports team. 

He admitted that while the past 14 months had been a “complete nightmare”, the mixture of passion and the fact that he played with no pressure played into his stride.

“It’s definitely a passion that keeps me going, but I also think that it might be a little bit of big-match temperament. There’s only a handful of Fifa players who have it, and in the big tournaments, I generally do well.”

After the win, Pirates eSports were quick to announce that Akhalwaya’s break had ended and while he will not be a part of the eSports team any longer, he will now take on a Fifa coaching role at the club. This means that he will watch the games of Pirates players and show them where they can improve on both their defensive and offensive game.

However, this does not mean that he will retire from the competitive scene completely.

“I will try and help at Pirates as much as possible, and if I get into big tournaments, I will play. But there will be no more grinding on the weekends to play 30 matches. For now, it’s just making sure the players at Pirates do well,” Akhalwaya said.

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Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia is a member of the Mail & Guardian's online team.

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