Football is often perceived as a European and South American sport. While it is the most followed sport in the world, the impact varies. Which is why it comes as a surprise that FIFA Esports is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Middle East, in particular UAE and Saudi Arabia. The rapid growth is due to many reasons but the effect is very positive.
The Gaming Culture Influence
Esports has always been a monumental industry in the United States and North America in general. The effect of the gaming scene has made its way onto the rest of the globe with the Middle East area one of them. Not just for FIFA but for other videogames too. Middle-Eastern racing esports team YAS HEAT is one of the biggest racing teams in the sim racing circuit and they started out by emulating famous American and British esports team.
Speaking of Yas, the Yas Creative Hub is set to receive an upgrade with the Emirates Esports Association. AES’ governing body for esports will establish its headquarters within twofour54’s new media and entertainment campus, Yas Creative Hub when it opens later this year in Abu Dhabi. twofour54 is the media and entertainment hub of Abu Dhabi and the company has already launched 57 licensing categories for various gaming companies and esports organisers. This will help scout talents in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and provide them with a platform to compete.
“The Middle East is a fast-growing gaming market, evolving from casual gaming to virtual reality games and competitive sports. With a growing community of active gamers and a high internet penetration, Gaming & Esports industry in MENA is likely to witness a boom in the future,” said market researchers YouGov recently. “Our data shows, for an important sub-section of players, watching video games online has become as much of a pastime as gaming itself.”
Rise of Middle Eastern Football in FIFA Titles
Coupled with the Esports growth is the increased representation of teams and clubs from the region in the FIFA videogames. No one could’ve predicted the appearance of Al Ain FC in FIFA 20 and while it’s just a singular club, we may even see the introduction of the entire UAE Arabian Gulf League in the near future. This is also a league that is continuing to grow in popularity, as demonstrated by the increased interest in this tournament amongst betters at sites like Arabianbetting.com, which has also helped take the league to new heights and to a wider audience.
On the topic of Arabian clubs, we have the official MBS Pro League of Saudi Arabia in FIFA 21. Featuring all licensed clubs, FIFA 21 bridged the gap between hard core esports athletes and casual players in the MENA region and further additions from the region will only strengthen the player base in these countries.
EA’s VOLTA mode has also given some extra attention to the Middle East with a dedicated VOLTA Squad from the region featuring the likes of Amr Nassouhy and Ahmed Show amongst others. In fact, The MENA region saw the biggest growth in the Esports sector in 2020 with the growth rate double that of the global average. This is mainly due to the young population in these regions.
FIFA Pros and Celebrities
Over the years, the FIFA Esports scene has been highlighted by the rise of a few prominent players from the MENA region. Along with that, the content creation side has also seen many people break into the main space.
The biggest content creator in the region is NSOOHY. Amr is currently the biggest YouTuber in the region. He is also the manager of the best Arabs national team on FUT. Another celebrity is Fahed Albreiki, a football icon from the UAE and an ex-player of Al Ain FC. He is currently one of the best freestylers on the planet and is an official ambassador of the Middle-East VOLTA Squad.
Last but not least, who can forget MsDossary? The 2018 World Champion caught the world by storm after conquering the Xbox platform and destroying rivals in the process. He came close to winning the 2019 World Cup too, finishing 2nd, and has since then won the FIFA 20 Summer Cup (Middle East) and the FIFA 21 Global West Asia Qualifier 2. He currently is a part of Tundra Esports as an Xbox player.
There is no shortage of talent players in the Middle East and with the growth observed in the esports scene and the improved presence in the game titles will surely help propel the MENA region into the global spotlight.