Mazen Akilan is a 24-year-old gamer in Dubai who is part of the YaLLa Esports team. He plays a game called 'Hearthstone' and hopes to switch his full-time job as a sales agent into a thriving career in esports.
"I've won couple of tournaments in Dubai that helped cover my expenses, but winning the $15,000 (Dh55,094) at WESG (World Electronic Sports Games) in China was a big thing for me as I managed to get my driving licence and buy my own car," Akilan, who has been a gamer since 12 years of age, said.
"My ultimate goal would be winning something big enough to put the Middle East right in the centre of the gaming map so that everyone can see how much potential we have as players and how much we have to offer to the gaming industry. Five years from now, I would like to be a good gamer and content creator, representing my region and YaLLa Esports."
Another YaLLa Esports member is Mohammad Hayat, a 29-year-old Kuwaiti expat in Dubai who plays Dragon Ball Fighter Z. He already has a full-time job that is tied to gaming. However, he's also keen on travelling around the world to compete in tournaments.
"I would love to be known worldwide in the gaming industry, to have a positive influence and take care of its growth. In five years, I wish to be one of the best at a game and moving on to creating the next generation of talented players as well as bringing in newcomers," Hayat said.
Founder of YaLLa Esports Klaus Kajetski said that they've played in hundreds of tournaments since its inception in 2016, from weekly local cups to global finals in different continents. Prize pools can range from $10,000 to millions of dollars.
"Esports is definitely a viable career these days, though local players need to understand we have a long way to go before salaries reach the levels of European Union or North America currently," Kajetski said.
"Currently there are only a few esports athletes who deserve a full-time salary in the Mena region, but we at YaLLa Esports are planning to create several more over the next few years. Also, an esports career is not only a player anymore. As the ecosystem grows, there are opportunities as caster, coach, analyst and many others."
It was reported last month that a 16-year-old had won $3 million at the first Fortnite world cup that was held in New York.
Teens in the UAE are also earning large sums of cash through either competing in esports tournaments or coaching other players.
Khaleej Times previously reported about a 16-year-old Canadian student, Bradley Ismail, who earned Dh83,5000 from just coaching other players.
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