Three Israelis competed in an international video game tournament in Saudi Arabia, with two of them playing on one of the winning teams.
Shahar Shoshan, Lotan Giladi and Guy Iloz flew into the kingdom, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, to participate in the ongoing Gamers8 tournament in Riyadh, which runs for eight weeks from July to September.
Shoshan and Giladi were part of a French-led team called “Vitality” that took home the top prize in an event playing Counter-Strike, a tactical first-person shooter game. The other team members were two French players and another from Denmark.
In the final, they beat the team that fellow Israeli Iloz played on, called “Ence.”
The trio stayed in Riyadh for eight days for the tournament after entering Saudi Arabia on Israeli passports and receiving visas from local authorities, the Kan public broadcaster reported Tuesday. They reached the kingdom by flying in via the United Arab Emirates, which normalized relations with Israel in 2020.
The Israelis were given a round-the-clock security detail and were told to keep a low profile while in the country, Kan reported. They were also given a private driver and car to take them wherever they needed to go. Overall, they had a positive experience, the report said.
First prize in the event was $400,000 dollars for the winning team, with another $600,000 divided among the 16 other participating teams
After news of the win was reported on social media by Kan correspondent Roi Kais, another user noted that Giladi has an Israeli flag printed on the keyboard he used during the contest.
אגב, ללוטן גלעדי יש מקלדת של דגל ישראל שאיתה הוא גם שיחק בגמר pic.twitter.com/D9G6g747R8
— ???????????? ???????????? – Dor Peretz (@DorMPeretz) August 22, 2023
In July, three Israelis participated in a FIFA video game tournament in Riyadh.
At the general rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the FIFAe World Cup finals, the three gamers from Israel were filmed singing the national anthem and holding the Israeli flag.
According to Kan news at the time, the Saudis decided at the last moment not to broadcast teams with their anthems, and also refused to hand over a recording of the rehearsal to the Israeli delegation.
Still, a video filmed by one of the delegation members made it online.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 11, 2023
Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a top global location for hosting gaming events.
There has been a recent flurry of talk about possible normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia as the Biden administration pushes to reach a deal.