The debate surrounding the classification of eSports as a legitimate sport has persisted for some time. eSports, which entail organized multiplayer video game competitions among professional players and teams, share similarities with traditional sports like football, as both require specialized skills. Hand-eye coordination, strategic thinking, teamwork, and effective communication are crucial in eSports, much like in other sports. Over the past decade, the eSports industry has experienced remarkable growth, emerging as one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors and offering lucrative career opportunities. Similar to conventional sports, eSports organizations possess team owners, contracts, and partnerships that sponsor multiple teams for diverse tournaments.
Popular genres featured in eSports tournaments include first-person shooters (FPS), real-time strategy (RTS), and the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) sub-genre. Renowned titles like Call of Duty, Street Fighter, League of Legends, Overwatch, PUBG, and Fortnite are favored by both top competitors and aspiring players. eSports has witnessed unparalleled expansion over the past decade, becoming one of the most rapidly growing industries worldwide.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Cholwe Shabukali, the founder of Team Gematrix, Zambia’s first eSports organization. She shared her journey and the inception of Team Gematrix, stating, “I approached my business partner, Prince Musole, with the idea of starting a business centered around something we both love—gaming. At the time, I wasn’t certain about the specifics, but I envisioned an annual event. That’s how the concept of Gamers Entertainment Meet [GEM] came to me.”
Cholwe acknowledges Lukonga Lindunda, the co-founder and executive director of BongoHive, as someone who played a crucial role in assisting her and her business partner in pursuing their passion. Through the Launch Accelerator program at BongoHive, they gained valuable insights into business models, marketing, problem-solving, and strategic management. Cholwe explains, “This experience not only fueled our passion for gaming but also instilled a business mindset. The knowledge we acquired helped us assess what would have a long-term impact. We realized that hosting a one-off event each year wasn’t sufficient. Subsequently, we ventured into game development, which, unfortunately, proved to be a significant failure,” she chuckles.
At that point, Cholwe and Prince returned to the drawing board and made the decision to establish a competitive gaming team. She elaborates, “Our next step was to find talented gamers. Prince and I organized a tournament to discover that talent. We had saved some money, which we used to rent TVs and gaming consoles. Our friends provided additional support, and we secured sponsorships from Huawei, MTN, and BongoHive. The tournament aimed to identify the best of the best, and that’s when we coined the slogan, ‘DARE TO BE THE BEST.'”
From that tournament, they selected the future members of Team Gematrix: Justin Banda (aka Mr 5000), Kevin ‘Messi’ Tembo, Mwelele Zaza, Chimba Mutale, and John ‘Neymar’ Mwape. Cholwe reached out to the players in December 2017, and by February 2018, the team was signing contracts, officially establishing itself. Team Gematrix primarily competes in games developed by NetherRealm Studios and FIFA.