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Arslan Ash receives the trophy after winning 2018 gaming tournament in UAE. Image Credit: Arslan Siddique

Islamabad: It has been a heroic rise for the 23-year-old Pakistani gamer. Only a year ago, Arslan Siddique, known in the gaming world as ‘Arslan Ash’, was busy playing Tekken with his friends at the gaming centres in his hometown Lahore. And this week, he has been crowned the world’s best ‘Tekken 7’ player bringing Pakistan its first Evolution Championship Series (EVO) title.

On August 4, Pakistan’s Arslan Ash knocked out the South Korean champion, Jae-Min “Knee” Bae, in the grand finals of the 2019 EVO in Las Vegas — the world’s biggest and most prestigious fighting game tournament series. He won almost $14,000 (Dh51,380) in prize money in the series in which more than 9,000 players from 80 countries contested in different games.

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Pakistan’s Arslan Siddique becomes the global champion of Tekken after winning EVO Vegas in the United States after defeating South Korean legend Knee Image Credit: Astro Gaming

After winning the Tekken 7 grand final, Arslan fell to his knees on the centre stage to express gratitude to Allah as the crowd cheered for him. “All that I am it is because of my mother’s prayers and my faith,” Arslan Ash told Gulf News. He dedicated his win to his loving mother, his “biggest supporter.”

“Winning EVO is the dream of any e-sports player. This is my biggest achievement and most memorable moment of my life,” Arslan said. With his victory, Arslan Ash has taken the gaming world and players by surprise as the fighting games have long been dominated by players from Japan, South Korea, China, and United States. These words of Arslan in fact sent chills down the spines of top Tekken players: “There are many other strong players like me in Pakistan waiting for an opportunity to compete globally.” Arslan believes that his success has motivated Pakistani gamers to work harder and become better. In fact, his global competitors and now friends in real life say they can’t wait to visit Pakistan to witness the country’s gaming scene and compete with more Pakistani players, Arslan shared.

HOW ARSLAN ASH BECAME WORLD CHAMPION IN TEKKEN?

When Arslan first entered the fighting game world at the age of 12, practising with friends and learning moves at the gaming centres in Lahore, little did he know he would become a professional gamer representing Pakistan in top tournaments.

His first major achievement was winning the Tekken 7 championship at EVO Japan in February this year. The contest for Arslan, however, began before leaving for Japan as he had trouble with visa and transit permits. After three days of “very difficult” travel due to 5 flights, he finally reached Japan just in time for the tournament. Despite lack of sleep and proper food, Arslan overwhelmed his famed opponents.

Arslan Ash became the first winner of both EVO Japan and EVO Vegas in 2019 after repeatedly defeating Tekken legend and South Korean powerhouse Knee, making Pakistani Tekken community proud. He burst into the global gaming scene in 2018 after participating in a contest in Malaysia and then made headlines at OUG Tournament 2018 in Dubai where he earned the championship after first besting Jae-Min. “That was the biggest achievement of my gaming career. I never thought I could beat the world number one Tekken player, Knee.” He then went on to win titles in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Thailand, Japan and US. A UAE-based Vslash e-sports company sponsors Arslan.

For now, Arslan has taken a break from studies to focus on e-sports as his wins have given him the courage to make gaming a lifetime career. This means his mom doesn’t stop him from playing games now. In fact, he now has full support of his parents.

But how many hours does he spend playing every day? “About four to five hours normally. But during preparations for a contest, I spend about eight to nine hours a day playing Tekken,” he said. One of the most interesting facts is that Arslan plays as a female character named ‘Kazumi’, known for impressive karate style and additional abilities.

ARSLAN ASH IS AN INSPIRATION FOR PAKISTANI YOUNGSTER

Arslan’s phenomenal global victory is bringing attention to the young talent in Pakistan. “I said many years ago if the Pakistanis play Koreans they will beat them and people laughed at me. But the level and passion [in Pakistan] is very strong,” says Asim Ali, a famous Pakistani Tekken player. If other Pakistani gamers get a chance to prove themselves internationally, “You will all be surprised.”

In towns and cities of Pakistan, youngsters are often seen playing the game of Tekken and nationwide contests are also held but what Arslan has achieved is something surprising for the fans. Ali Amjad, an avid fan of Tekken from Islamabad, told Gulf News: “It is absolutely amazing to see a Pakistani come out of nowhere and win top two Tekken tournaments EVO Japan and EVO Vegas in the same year by defeating the finest players. The whole Tekken community of Pakistan is proud of him.”

Country’s gaming groups feel Arslan Ash is both an inspiration for the young people and an e-sports star epitomising Pakistan’s young and bright minds. “Arslan has shown to the world how talented Pakistanis are in the field of gaming and technology. His victory is the reason that Pakistan is now in the spotlight of international gaming community,” says Hasnain Ali, co-founder of e-sports Pakistan.