26 March 2020 – South Africa was one of two African nations to compete in the FIFA eNations Stay and Play Cup which pitted celebrities and top international footballers against some of the world’s best EA FIFA20 gamers.
Forty FIFA eSports national teams competed in three sections based on time zone with SA included in the most competitive, Central Section. Winners of each section won a prize money donation to the national charity organisation of their choice. SAFA named the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund as their charity.
eBafana Bafana showed flashes of brilliance but were nonetheless knocked out in the group round. Their group included eventual champions Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Kick-off was Tuesday, 21 April 2020 and South Africa got off to a fast start, beating UAE 12-8 on aggregate. Pro gamer Thabo “Young Savage” Moloi crushed his opponent 8-2 while Bafana Bafana and Mamelodi Sundowns player Sibusiso Vilakazi lost a nail-biter to his Emirati opponent 6-4.
The second pairing was against the highly-rated Saudi Arabia, boasting a former world champion in “MsDossary” as their top player. eBafana lost 8-1 on aggregate with Thabo falling 3-1 and well known South African musician Cassper Nyovest losing 5-0 – though it must be said that Cassper’s hilarious running commentary was one of the highlights of the tournament.
In eBafana’s last group round tie with Qatar, connection issues scuppered Moloi’s chances while Proteas all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo lost 6-4. The group phase closed with the Saudis qualifying with a 100% record and going through to win the Central Section Championship.
Despite eBafana’s early exit, Team SA Manager, Errol Madlala felt it was a great opportunity to test ourselves against the best in the world.
“We knew going in that it would be very tough to get past the Saudis,” lamented Madlala. “But it must be said that our team – particularly Thabo – never looked outclassed. UAE is also highly regarded and I think Thabo showed in his match that he has a bright future internationally. Sadly I don’t think Cassper does.”
Madlala also sees big things on the horizon domestically for SA’s gamers.
“Today even eSports plans are the mercy of COVID but we still hope to release details on SAFA’s first eSports national league in 2020,” said Madlala. “Watch this space.”
In the meantime eBafana is planning further eFriendlies against international opposition during the lockdown period, as well as working with local competition to select new players to represent #eBafanaBafana on rotational basis, exposing more gamers to international competition.