Say hello to South Africa's youngest Tekken Prodigy
© Bandai Namco
While most were taking a break over December, South African gaming organisation Goliath Gaming was keeping an eye on local esports tournaments in the hope of spotting new talent...
At a locally organised Tekken competition hosted by Never Lose they spotted 11-year-old Malik “King_Ling” Fonseca. King_Ling's 2021 will start by repping one of South Africa’s premium gaming brands and as one of the youngest competitive players the region has seen - he’s on a trajectory to see his name among the greats before he turns 18.
Michele “Stickalish” Brondani, Goliath Gaming co-owner and scout, says the organisation doesn’t publicize it, but they’re always scouting for fresh new talent:
“Goliath actively keeps an eye on the various scenes and gaming titles in South Africa throughout the year. We came across Malik at the Never Lose hosted event. Even though Malik didn’t win the tournament, we noticed so much potential from such a young player and thought with the right guidance and mentorship, in the right gaming family, he could be unstoppable.”
Malik lives in Eldorado Park in Johannesburg South. He’s a confident young boy with a heart warming smile and positive nature. He started playing Tekken at the age of six and is quick to explain why he decided to take his fighting games skills into the competitive realm:
“I was tired of always beating my dad. I wanted to see how good my skills had become and I also was hoping to win some prizes. I get nervous when I compete but my parents always try to support me. My dad encouraged me to start competing because he knows I enjoy the challenge.”
The youngster is rather excited about signing with Goliath Gaming. He believes the organisation not only recognised his Tekken skills but will now give him more opportunities to compete. Most importantly, he is extremely excited about the help Goliath can give him to get better at the game he enjoys so much. While Malik is able to go toe to toe with older players in a competitive setting, there could be cause for concern by an MGO when it comes to signing a player so young. But Stickalish says the opportunity to mentor these young signings and build a new generation of South African esports players is a privilege for any gaming organisation:
“Age has never been a determining factor when we have new recruits join the GG family. If a player is good or has the potential to be great, and fits the GG culture and family dynamic, we’re totally open to it regardless of age. We don’t see signing young players to GG as a risk. If anything, it’s an exciting opportunity to be able to mentor and develop young players who show a lot of promise.”
Over the years Goliath Gaming has formed a reputation for spotting young new talent. It began when they signed then 17-year-old Dean “Massacre” Davids to their CSGO roster. He is now considered one of the best players in the country. Goliath Gaming also spotted the talent of FIFA star Thabo “YvngSavage” Moloi. Stickalish says there is no secret sauce to finding young talent:
“When we look back at the young players we’ve scouted and picked up, it’s never been a decision we’ve made hastily or impulsively. Julio “Beast” Bianchi, a then up and coming young FIFA player, was someone we had been watching for more than three months (during which time he had no idea our eyes were on him) before we approached him to join the GG family. We’ve taken the time to look into each player - their profile online and their skill set in-game, their personality and character, the likelihood of them being a good fit in the GG family and fitting the GG culture, what their goals and ambitions are, and if they are open to mentorship and constructive feedback to level up their game - to name a few.
It does also help being in the right place at the right time to spot new talent. In the instance of Malik, us being at the Never Lose Champion Series and having the organiser flag Malik as someone to watch was that little bit of luck that led to his signing. It is an exciting opportunity to mentor and develop younger players who show a lot of promise.”
Malik says it is scary going up against older players but that he loves the feeding of landing a combo he has been practicing. He also says his esports dream is to play Tekken against the best players in a big tournament and maybe even play at EVO one day. With Goliath in his camp this is very much a possibility. Though it is only one of his many ambitions:
“When I grow up I’d really like to be a voice actor and do movies like Secret Life of Pets.”