The rise of Esports in South Africa – Interview with Ashton ‘Golz’ Muller

Comic Con Africa is a place where Africa’s gaming and geek culture unite under one banner. Despite the pandemic this year, it continued with a twist. The entire con was held online. As expected, Esports played a huge part.

Comic Con Africa 2020: Online Con

Various social media and streaming sites showed content that catered to everyone. The competitive gamers came to witness the Telkom VS Gaming tournament.

This African gaming brand is the leading platform for Esports in South Africa. Where teams such as former champions Goliath Gaming and current champions ATKV, battle it out on a winner takes all platforms.

The game of choice? Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

I had a chat with Ashton “Golz” Muller, the manager of Goliath Gaming, the former champions of the Telkom VS gaming tournament. I wanted to get a sense of where exactly Esports is in South Africa, and whether the gaming community here was growing.

Dubai GG team 2020
Dubai GG team 2020. Image supplied.

The rise of Esports in South Africa

In conversation with Ashton ‘Golz’ Muller Your team took home the big win in 2019 at the Telkom VS Gaming tournament. Describe that moment.

Ashton ‘Golz’ Muller: Pretty indescribable to be honest haha – looking back at it now, it all feels very surreal, but it simply is a moment that I will never forget and one that I am extremely proud of for many reasons,

When I first started competing in Esports over ten years ago, I had established the goal for myself to be the best in South Africa one day and to prove that to myself. I would need to win the biggest event of the year.

A few years later, in 2016, I was able to win the VS Gaming Masters with my team. I was finally able to achieve my goal. So when we started Goliath Gaming in 201, one of the first goals that we aimed to achieve was to secure a huge championship with one of our teams.

And in 2019 at ComicCon Africa, we finally did it. Goliath Gaming had won the VS Gaming masters for Dota2.

What made you want to take part in this tournament?

Ashton ‘Golz’ Muller: The VS Gaming league has consistently been one of the most prestigious tournaments for competitive Esports player. As a team, it is your opportunity to prove that you are the best in South Africa if you can win the main event at the end of the season.

That is what our team is competing for this weekend.

How often do you and the team attend live events or compete online?

Ashton ‘Golz’ Muller: It varies year to year, but historically Esports tournaments can always be found at your bigger gaming expos like Comic Con Africa or rAge, which are generally your larger live events as well as other smaller tournaments here and there.

Still, a majority of the competitions leading up to these events and beyond are played online. This year was entirely online due to COVID-19, but that’s one of the awesome things about gaming: it can just take place online.

Where do you think Esports is headed, especially in South Africa?

Ashton ‘Golz’ Muller: I believe that Esports will eventually become one of the largest industries in terms of entertainment, viewership and participation. In such a short space of time, it has developed into this huge beast that is managing to rival some of the biggest spectacles in the world with huge numbers in fan bases, prize pools.

Every single year the entire world shifts further towards the digital age as technology thrives. The trump card that esports has over everything else is that it is inherently inclusive.

There are no inherent limitations on physical build or gender for example that restrict potential. So, once everybody has access, it becomes unique in that sense, special.

Dubai qualifier
Dubai qualifier. Image supplied.

What are your long-term aspirations in Esports?

Ashton ‘Golz’ Muller: The overall goal for me is to help contribute towards the professionalisation of the industry locally; to bridge the gap between Africa and the rest of the world.

And hopefully, to be recognised as a region in the world of Esports that will provide our future gamers with equal opportunity to compete against the best in the world.

Anything you’d like to say to your team?

Ashton ‘Golz’ Muller: Trust the process, believe in the system and each other. Individually you have all done what you can.

Every challenge you have faced, every obstacle in your way, every lesson you have learned, and every sacrifice you have made is now behind you; just make sure you have a good time while doing it.

The Telkom VS Gaming Masters grand final

Goliath Gaming went on to face DNMK in the lower bracket final. This was to determine which of the two great teams would face ATKARENA in the Telkom VS Gaming Masters grand final.

They, however, suffered a 2-1 loss. DNMK and ATKARENA then went on to face each other in the finals with ATKARENA taking home the grand prize and the crown of being the Season 5 Masters.

Telkom VS Gaming has made me realise just how much Esports is growing in South Africa. It’s one to watch. Protection Status

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