Falcons Esports and Rico Infinity Team complete the podium to make it a triumph for teams in the region
16 teams, 18 matches, one champion team. After three days of PUBG MOBILE competition and a nail-biting finish, YaLLa Esports took the “chicken dinner” that mattered the most at the Global Esports Tour 2021 in Riyadh, lifting the trophy and taking the US$45,000 champions pay cheque. The team had gone into the final day of matches as overwhelming favourites, having built up a 41-point lead over closest competitors Rico Infinity Team. But their rivals, including Falcons Esports, had other ideas. Falcons gave YaLLa little breathing space, at one point late in the final match coming within just two kills of levelling the score. They eventually finished just four points behind YaLLa, winning US$20,000. Rico (R8T) completed the podium a further 11 points behind with a US$15,000 prize. Said team player Bandar Alkahtani: “We were under pressure to keep our top place. All of the teams’ game play changed every day. It was literally different styles every day, and this was really difficult.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, almost strange. This is the first time I felt like this, I’ve never felt like this before. You always think you want to be champion one day, and you repeat this story for over a year, that you will be champion one day. Finally, we did it.”
The key to the team’s triumph, he said, was having a ‘secret weapon’ in the form of coach Kevin Salameh, a former player himself who competed on the circuit just two years ago. “Kevin was the key to our win. He always motivated us and got us in the mood,” said Alkahtani. The current YaLLa PUBG MOBILE roster have been a team for the past year, but it has been nearly two years since anyone has competed in a lan tournament. The GET Riyadh event followed the GET Los Angeles stop last month, which featured Hearthstone® and was also the first in-person competition for the title in two years.
Seeing your opponents in person, having the action broadcast on-site on top of being streamed live to hundreds of thousands, under the spotlight at the Riyadh Front Exhibition and Conference Center put the front-runners under even more pressure. “It was really tough to be in top place and keep this position after our great performance yesterday,” said Salameh. “Today we went in knowing everyone’s looking at us. It was really frustrating for my team. Just being on the stage, the pressure was really on. I’m glad my guys could save the situation, grab those few kills and get ourselves a few points.” The result, featuring Middle Eastern sides on the podium, was a triumph for teams in the region. They edged out pre-tournament favourites like Virtus.Pro, Nepalese sides DRS Gaming and Trained To Kill. It was also close to a win on home soil for YaLLa, who have three Saudis on its team roster. They were presented the trophy by His Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, who is president of the Saudi Esports Federation and a GEF Board Member. GEF chief executive officer Paul J. Foster was also on stage for the prize presentation, while several GEF Board Members also travelled to Riyadh for the event. Said Salameh: “We knew that R8T can make a really good comeback. They’re our top competitors. Our second competitor was always Falcons. Being top three together was epic, to be honest.
“It was a great experience. Everything was well-organised and taken care of. Playing on a stage can come with pressure, and with the Global Esports Federation, everything was settled. We only needed to worry about our performance and game play. Everything else was taken care of.
“We’re going to celebrate more with our fans, which we’re so grateful to, to our sponsors who stood by us this time. We’ll celebrate with our organisation, with our families and friends, and with all the fans and this lovely community. This is a real #worldconnected. “Thank you for this wonderful thing. This is history, to be told to our kids, maybe. We made history.” The Global Esports Tour moves to Dubai next month from Nov 26-27, featuring Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The GEF will also host its inaugural Global Esports Games in December in Singapore.