On Sunday, Jabhi “JabhiM” Mabuza and Farouk “DaXpt” Suleman won the Red Bull Hit The Streets Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 competitions, respectively, to claim the South African titles and the prize of a place in the world championships in November/December in Las Vegas, US.
The pair brushed off three other competitors each to win the 9kg tar-made trophy and the ticket that will see them represent South Africa at the Last Chance Qualifier at Red Bull Kumite 2021.
For Mabuza, it was his third consecutive Street Fighter title. The well-oiled machine found that the level of competition had increased – but so had his, especially after his first overseas trip two years ago to compete in Japan at the 2019 Kumite.
Tekken winner Suleman, however, recorded his first title on debut at the event, having not known about the competition previously. The excited 27-year-old from Northcliff could not hide his joy about the trip to the US and the chance to compete against the best in the world, especially given his relatively new professional career.
After being touted as the outright favourite before and during the tournament, Mabuza seemed to find nerves awaiting him in the dojo –the secure arena where the competitors play – but as he focused on his breathing, closing his eyes before the rounds, he found Zen mode and even with a sliver of life left managed to find the timing and opening to put his rival’s characters through the walls (literally, in some cases).
“It was emotional, I think I even cried,” Mabuza told City Press just after receiving the trophy.
“I’d just lost a big tournament in August, so you can imagine every time I open my Twitter what I see, how much I lost by, and even watching it again I’m hating myself.
“So going back into the same situation, same grand final format, same players, same characters…” he trailed off, visibly relieved.
This year a wild card from Kenya was added to the tournament. Kenya’s first professional woman gamer – Sylvia Gathoni, AKA Queen Arrow, came to Johannesburg to battle it out for the coveted title.
“Coming to South Africa for the first time to compete with the best fighting game players was an experience I will never forget,” she said, adding that she was keen to return next year and claim the trophy.
You can watch the full Twitch stream here.