Saudi Arabia’s charitable Gamers Without Borders tournament has now raised more than $8.5 million (Dh31.2m) for global charities tackling Covid-19.
Having run for the last six weeks, the tournament has become the world’s largest charitable eSports event of all time, connecting over 120,000 players from 72 countries.
The gamers have been competing for a total charity prize pool of $10m. Tournaments have taken place across 14 of the most popular video games, including Fortnite, Call of Duty and Fifa 20.
British singer Liam Payne was the latest celebrity to lend his star power to the cause, taking part in the event’s celebrity-packed closing weekend. It comes after a late announcement that US rapper Snoop Dogg would bring the curtain down on the tournament, taking on DJ and comedian Kerwin Frost as part of the tournament’s finale on Sunday, June 7.
The former One Direction star faced off on Fifa 20 against Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold on Saturday, but ultimately lost 4-1 and then 5-2 in front of a streaming audience of thousands.
“It’s such a great cause and we all love playing games – it’s one of the best things. So to be able to do that and make money for unfortunate people at the same time, what an absolute winner – it’s just absolutely amazing to be a part of it. Sorry I lost the game but that’s the least of it, isn’t it,” Payne said after the game.
The singer admitted there was “nothing [he] could do” to block the football professional’s “magnet” shots on his goal. Alexander-Arnold also appears as a character on Fifa 20, so he was able to play in the match as himself.
“Did you see how fast he was on Fifa as himself?” Payne said.
“I could see why he was sat there so chilled. If I was that fast I’d be chilling out most of the time as well. My agility during lockdown too has been minimal – it’s not very far from the fridge to the sofa for me.”
Reflecting on life in lockdown, Payne admitted it “has been hard”.
“Working out and different things like that have been quite difficult – maintaining fitness and all sorts of stuff like we have to do for our jobs. And just not being able to see your friends and family too – not being able to see my son has obviously been the hardest part,” he said.
“The beard’s really coming on, the hair’s coming on – I’m worried at the moment I’m going to leave lockdown with a best friend called Wilson, like Tom Hanks in Castaway.”
In the end, the $100,000 prize pool for the match was split – $25,000 for Payne as the loser and $75,000 for the triumphant Alexander-Arnold.
But in the end, Unicef was the main winner, with both players donating their prize money to the charity, which is seeking to protect health workers on the coronavirus front line across the globe.
The tournaments wraps up on Sunday, but not before several other high-profile celebrities try their luck in the virtual gaming world
In the Fifa 20 stakes, Juventus and Argentina player Paulo Dybala will take on England and Spurs hero Dele Alli on Saturday afternoon.
It’s then over to Portugal duo Joao Felix and Andre Silva, who face each other as part of Gamers Without Borders’ closing tournament on Sunday. Both games will take place at 5pm GMT.
Gamers Without Borders by Saudi was created by the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (Safeis) in partnership with Electronic Sports League (ESL), the world’s largest eSports company. The event will be streamed live to watch.
Updated: June 6, 2020 04:38 PM