3 Israelis compete in video game tournament in Saudi Arabia, 2 on winning team

Trio of gamers participate in Gamer8 contest, spend several days in kingdom which they reportedly entered on Israeli passports, were given 24/7 security, told to keep a low profile

Screen capture from video of team 'Vitality', which included two Israeli players and that took first place in the Counterstrike event at the Gamer8 tournament in Saudi Arabia, August 20, 2023. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of team 'Vitality', which included two Israeli players and that took first place in the Counterstrike event at the Gamer8 tournament in Saudi Arabia, August 20, 2023. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

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.

Although Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t have official relations, Israeli journalists, businessmen, and other figures have increasingly been allowed to visit the Islamic kingdom in recent years.

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.

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.

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