Benzema grabs hat-trick to help seal crucial win for Al-Ittihad

Benzema grabs hat-trick to help seal crucial win for Al-Ittihad
Benzema grabs hat-trick to help seal crucial win for Al-Ittihad

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - ABU DHABI: A leading esports professional player believes the UAE is on the right track to becoming a global esports powerhouse and is looking forward to returning to Abu Dhabi to compete in the BLAST Premier World Final in December.

Finn Andersen, known as Karrigan in the esports world, will be part of the Faze Clan roster that will be in action in the BLAST Premier World Final at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena on Dec. 16-17.

The team is one of eight sides that will be competing in the global showpiece season-ending Counter-Strike tournament that has a prize pool of $1 million. The tournament is being held in partnership with AD Gaming, the Abu Dhabi government’s program to support and accelerate the growth of the gaming industry in the Emirate.

It will be the second time Karrigan participates in Abu Dhabi after last year’s event, and the 33-year-old was impressed by what he saw of the UAE’s passion for esports, saying he would not be surprised if more global tournaments were held in the country in the future.

He said: “It’s important that, in any discipline of sports, we reach as many people as possible around the world and that means playing in new cities. Esports is getting bigger by the year, and we need to get it out there and show that Counter-Strike or esports is (more) fun to watch in an arena than at home.

“This is why I enjoyed playing in Abu Dhabi last year. I was surprised with how passionate the fans were as they really do love gaming and I hope there will be World Final tournaments held there in the future as it was a great experience. I cannot wait to play there again in December.”

Since first playing Counter-Strike in the early 2000s, Karrigan has risen to become one of the world’s best esports players and has helped Faze Clan to win several prestigious titles including the IEM Katowice 2022, Antwerp Major 2022, IEM Cologne 2022 and ESL Pro League Season 17.

He was also the oldest Major winner at 32 years old after triumphing in the 2022 PGL Major.

Karrigan gave credit to his parents for their support during his journey so far.

“My parents have been open-minded about me playing Counter-Strike ... as long as I did my studies,” he said. “I managed to do both by also completing my master’s degree and am grateful they were always supportive of me playing, especially at a time when esports was not as big as it is today.”

He added: “I would describe my esports journey to date either as a bumpy road or rollercoaster. I have played every single role in Counter-Strike, which I enjoyed, while there’s been many ups and downs. When I do decide to end my career, I will look back knowing I did everything that I could (to compete) at the highest level. I have won a lot of different tournaments but have yet to win a BLAST tournament, so that is one I want to win as well.”

In 2022, the UAE was ranked first for the highest percentage of adult gamers, with nine in 10 people playing video games. Having experienced esports as a hobby before, Karrigan says the one piece of advice he would share with gamers is to “have fun.”

He added: “I think sometimes when you’re so focused on the outcome, you forget how to structure your daily life. I had the problem myself where I just focused on the outcome. People need to understand that you’re not always going to win, so self-reflection is important to understand how (you) can improve as a player.”

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