PUBG Mobile Controversy Explained: Stalwart Esports vs i8 Esports

A detailed explanation of what actually went down between Stalwart and i8 with statements from both parties.

Aditya Singh Rawat
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<div class="paragraphs"><p>PUBG Mobile Controversy Explained Stalwart Esports And I8 Esports</p></div>

The PUBG Mobile community in Pakistan has been thriving well in the past year with i8 Esports proving themselves to be among the best competitive teams that the country has to offer. They recently represented Pakistan at the PUBG Mobile World Invitational (PMWI) 2021: East, an international PUBG Mobile tournament with 16 teams from across SEA, South Asia, Korea, Japan, Russia, and the Middle East.

They were the only Pakistani team at the tournament, finishing at the 13th position overall and walking away with $5,000 USD in prize money. As a result of this performance, a donation of $37,000 USD to the International Medical Corps was also made by the tournament organizers. However, there was a lot of controversy surrounding i8 Esports’ direct invite to the tournament prior to all of this. I8 Esports’ players and their former organization Stalwart Esports had a public spat on social media which concluded with the former receiving the invite to the tournament after Stalwart Esports forfeited it.

AFK Gaming reached out and spoke with Zeyan “Z3YAN” Shafiq - founder and CEO of Stalwart Esports, and Shahbaz "TRYNDA" Mengalis - i8 Esports’ captain, to decipher the situation while also trying to identify the root cause of the problem.

The following is an overview of what happened between i8 Esports and Stalwart Esports, along with both their perspectives on some of the key problems, and a take on how this could have all been avoided.

Stalwart Esports vs i8 Esports - Controversy Explained

Formation of Stalwart x Flex

Stalwart Esports has been competing in the Pakistani PUBG Mobile competitive circuit since Oct 2020. Their initial lineup of Black, Baba, Malik, Kashoof, BladeOp and Morte, parted ways with the org in Dec 2020. Stalwart Esports is owned and operated by Zeyan “Z3YAN” Shafiq.

Z3YAN alleged that Stalwart Esports received a direct invite for PUBG Mobile Club Open (PMGC) - Spring Split 2021: Pakistan in Feb 2021. In the absence of an active lineup at the time, Z3YAN stated that he had started looking for a team that could represent the organization. It was then that he got introduced to the i8 Esports roster through Agha Waqas - owner of FLEX Esports.

Back then i8 Esports was an upcoming team that was still trying to make a name for itself in the top-tier PUBG Mobile competitive scene, within Pakistan. The roster had struck a partnership with FLEX Esports and was operating under the latter’s banner.

Z3YAN claimed that he had his doubts about this lineup as they were an unknown underdog team. However, Waqas was allegedly able to convince him to pick up the roster who, according to Waqas, were dominating the domestic Tier-2 PUBG Mobile scene and were eager to perform at a bigger stage.

A joint venture contract was allegedly sent to FLEX Esports as per Z3YAN, to strike a three-way partnership between - Stalwart Esports, FLEX Esports, and i8 Esports. While the slot was officially Stalwart’s, Z3YAN alleged that Waqas wanted to include FLEX in the team name, but this request was initially declined. However, upon further discussion, an agreement on naming the team ‘Stalwart x FLEX’ was allegedly reached with the condition of reducing FLEX’s prize pool cut by 10%.

i8 Esports started competing under the ‘Stalwart x FLEX’ banner from Feb 2021 onwards. They competed with this team name in three official tournaments - PUBG Mobile Pro League (PMPL) - Season 3 2021: South Asia League, PMPL - S3 2021: South Asia Finals, and PUBG Mobile International League (PMIL) Phase 3.

While playing under the ‘Stalwart x FLEX’ banner no contract was established between Stalwart and i8, AFK Gaming has verified this information after speaking to both parties. Z3YAN says that as they were already partnered with FLEX it was not possible to sign a contract with i8 Esports just yet. However, a verbal agreement was allegedly established when it came to the prize pool distribution.

According to Z3YAN, the prize pool split between all the parties involved was initially 60% to Stalwart as the slot was theirs, and 40% to FLEX, who would distribute it further to the players on their own. This was however changed to 70% to Stalwart and 30% to FLEX, following the naming rights decision.

The above is mostly synchronous with what TRYNDA (i8 Esports' captain) had to say, although there are a few discrepancies. In a message to AFK Gaming, TRYNDA stated that Stalwart indeed took a 70% cut of the prize pool. However, he claimed that the remaining 30% did not go to FLEX, it was i8 who received the cut. He further alleged that FLEX was getting nothing other than the co-naming rights.

'Device' payment issues between Stalwart and i8

‘Stalwart x FLEX’ went on to qualify all the way till PMPL - S3 2021: South Asia Finals, as i8 Esports proved themselves to be a worthy lineup after all. This is how they performed under the banner across different tournaments.

After finishing second in the PMCO - Spring Split 2021: Pakistan, ‘Stalwart x FLEX’ qualified to the next stage of the tournament series - PMPL - S3 2021: South Asia League. With almost a month-long break to practice for this tournament, TRYNDA claims that i8 was informed by the tournament officials that they would be required to use vMix recording software while competing.

TRYNDA reached out to Stalwart Esports’ management, requesting them to provide six devices to run the recording software as they were compulsory in order to compete in the PMPL league stages. Stalwart verified the legitimacy of this request by reaching out to NODWIN Gaming as per Z3YAN, following which, he alleged that he had received a request of INR 3,00,000 ($4,030 USD) from i8 Esports. Z3YAN requested TRYNDA and the team to get this amount from their sponsors at that point in time - FLEX Esports. However, according to Z3YAN, i8 kept putting pressure on Stalwart after which the org agreed to send them money to purchase Redmi devices but faced resistance from the players who (Z3YAN claims) demanded iPhones.

TRYNDA has however denied these allegations. Instead, he claims that when Stalwart was approached for the devices, Z3YAN allegedly told the i8 players to ask their parents to buy them a new device or to simply borrow it from them. TRYNDA also went on to claim that basic things like UC Rename Cards which are used to change player names in-game were not provided by the organization.

However, all said and done, TRYNDA does claim that they were provided PKR 97,060 ($600 USD) by Stalwart for the vMix devices. This was allegedly not enough and i8 players had to pitch individually to spend about $927 USD in order to purchase one headphone and six vMix capable devices.

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