Thabo Moloi, aka ‘Yvng Savage’, is a FIFA phenom. The PS4 player burst onto the scene in 2018 when, in his very first competitive tournament – he claimed first place on PS4 in the VS Gaming FIFA Festival, which served as an official FIFA eWorld Cup Global Series Qualifier.

The then 16-year-old schoolboy took home a healthy prize purse for his efforts, but far more impressive than the biggest prize in the history of South African esports was Yvng Savage’s ability to come out tops in a pool of 512 players in his first event. It was a sure sign of things to come. It is even more remarkable that he practised on a borrowed copy of the game on a second-hand console.

“In 2018, when I first started playing FIFA competitively, I didn’t have the latest console to practice on. I saved my lunch money and asked my parents to help me. That’s how I got a second-hand PlayStation 4,” he says. Before that first big victory, it also took some convincing his parents that he was not just wasting his time behind the console. They’ve, of course, been super supportive since and helped him manage the balance between schoolwork and practice.

As a young boy, Yvng Savage started gaming on his father’s Xbox 360 and discovered FIFA through the 08 iterations, but he happily admits that it took him a while to find his feet with the series. He then moved to a new town and met Jabu Mndau, who would change his life forever, and became a mentor of sorts for the young player.

“I found him playing another soccer game called Pro Evolution Soccer,” says Mndau. “Then, every time I’d go to his house we would play FIFA together.”

Yvng Savage credits Mndau as the person who taught him how to play properly, showing him how to make skill moves, although sometimes being reluctant to give all the secrets away to pull out something unexpected when they played against each other. But even with Mndau’s experience, it would usually be Yvng Savage who came out on top.

The Hope of South Africa

Online gaming and esports require improved connectivity and economic base. Both have been absent in Africa in the past. Only a handful of countries like South Africa and Egypt had the necessary conditions for the growth of online competition. 

In fact, South Africa and Egypt were the founding members of the Confederation of African Esports, the governing body of esports in Africa. Founded way back in 2008, it hosts annual official matches in various games like Dota 2, Tekken, Fifa, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. 

Athletes have performed well above expectations in many recent international events. In 2020, Thabo “Yvng Savage” Moloi became the first South African to be sponsored by Red Bull for Fifa. He is another player on the Goliath roster.