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The BLAST Premier World Final will take place in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, BLAST announced on Thursday. The event will be hosted at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island from Dec. 14-18.

BLAST, as part of a longer three year partnership, will work work the government-led Abu Dhabi Gaming in bringing the action to a live audience.

“The World Final will follow in the footsteps of popular sports such as UFC, F1 and NBA in hosting major events in Abu Dhabi and the remarkable Etihad Arena provides the perfect stage for our World Final event,” Charlotte Kenny, managing director of BLAST Premier, said. “Esports and the gaming sectors are growing at a rapid pace in the Middle East with hundreds of thousands of people engaged with gaming, as either players or spectators.”

“We look forward to welcoming the best teams, players and fans to Abu Dhabi later this year in what will be a historic occasion for everyone involved,” James Hartt, director of strategic partnerships at Abu Dhabi Gaming, said.

The World Final is the culmination of the year-long BLAST Premier circuit. Eight of the top teams in the world gather to compete for a portion of a massive $1 million prize pool. Natus Vincere won the BLAST World Final trophy in 2021.

Two of the eights teams have already qualified for the World Final: NaVi and FaZe Clan. The remaining teams will be finalized following the conclusion of ESL Season 16 and the ESL Rio Major.

Tickets to the World Final will be announced at a later date.

 

The decision to hold the BLAST World Final in Abu Dhabi has already been met with criticism from some fans. There’s been an ongoing back-and-forth between esports organizations looking to the Middle East for lucrative deals and esports communities that are critical of the politics of countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this year, the Rainbow Six Siege community backlash to an announcement that the Six Major would be held in Abu Dhabi led to the event being relocated. Concerns were chiefly directed at the anti-LGBTQ politics of the country.

In 2020, BLAST canceled a partnership with NEOM, a tech city in Saudi Arabia, in response to community backlash over the country’s anti-LGBTQ laws and record of human rights violations.