Pakistan penetrates top esports gaming echelon, giving hope to Mideast players

Players from areas not previously well known for esports areas are making names for themselves, providing encouragement to would-be champions in the Middle East.

al-monitor Arslan ‘Arslan Ash’ Siddique of vSlash eSports celebrates after winning the Tekken 7 grand championship during day three of the 2019 Evolution Championship Series at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, U.S., Aug. 04, 2019. Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images.

Nov 25, 2019

The esports world is continuing to grow, attracting players from some unexpected places around the globe.

Fate Esports recently hosted an unprecedented video gaming invitational in Jordan called Fate: Global Masters. The Nov. 5-6 event brought some of the best players in the world to face Jordan’s top competitors in Tekken (“Iron Fist”) 7, the latest in a series from Bandai Namco Entertainment. Famous South Korean players such as Rox Dragons' Knee (Jae-Min Bae) and Fate Esports' Ulsan (Lim Soo-hoon) faced each other in the grand finals, where Ulsan came out on top.

But the story of a two-time Evo (Evolution Championship Series) winner and Fate invitational participant and his Pakistani countrymen is perhaps even more exciting and inspiring. His success may encourage players, teams and the esports communities in more regions.

Early this year, a surprising story began in the Tekken 7 fighting game scene. For many years, South Korean players had been considered the world’s strongest in international Tekken 7 competitions. But that changed this year with the rise of the Pakistani fighting game scene.

In February, during Evo Japan 2019 in Fukuoka, a rising star from Pakistan surprised everyone by winning one of the biggest and hardest tournaments of the year. In August, he did it again and won the absolute biggest tournament of the year in Las Vegas by roundly beating the legendary Knee.

The Pakistani player, Arslan Siddique, who plays under the name “Arslan Ash,” is now sponsored by Team Vslash. In the past he had trouble getting visas to compete in countries like Japan and the United States, which explained his and other Pakistani players’ absence in overseas tournaments. Without his persistence, along with skill and practice, of course, it would have been impossible for him to become the best player in the world or to put his country on the esports map. According to Siddique, Pakistan has a huge Tekken community and he has been practicing with skillful players.

Awais Parvez (“Awais Honey”) is another player from Pakistan who has made a name for himself. In August he won the first major international Tekken tournament he had ever entered, solidifying Pakistan and its players as a force to be reckoned with. 

Success stories like these indicate there are many great players yet to be discovered in other countries. The small number of esports organizations and the lack of international esports events in areas such as Pakistan and the Middle East are some of the reasons more players from there haven’t competed globally. 

Amman, Jordan-based Fate Esports was established in early 2017 with a team of five Jordanian Dota 2 players. The company has expanded into global esports by adding teams/players and more games such as CSGO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) and Tekken 7. It currently operates in Jordan, Bulgaria, Pakistan and South Korea and is considered a beacon of hope in Middle East.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Fate Esports founder Mohammad Majali said, “[Global Masters] was a pilot event, we planned it at the last second specifically to bring world-class players to Jordan and grow the country’s image as a pioneer in esports.”

He added, “Over 6,000 people tuned in to watch the event live across different streaming platforms and we’re expecting to see this number grow dramatically in the upcoming years.”

To increase awareness about esports and attract more viewers, sponsors, and players from the region to compete professionally, more of these events have to happen, he said.

“Through events like the Fate: Global Masters invitational, we plan to keep Jordan and the Middle East connected with the world of esports and world-class players. We also plan to expand our team by signing more Arab players in 2020,” Majali said.

Finding new players can take a lot of time, Majali noted. Being a good player isn’t enough to win a spot on a sponsored team.

“Although there are many skilled players across different games, we look for people with professional attitudes, who mesh well in a team, keep a clean public image, are available to participate in sponsor and media activities and, lastly, people who are very serious about practice.”

Like any business, Fate Esports has a vision and a set of goals.

“The players, managers and Fate employees are currently performing at the highest of standards and competing against world-class teams and players. The plan is to keep this momentum by facilitating our teams with all the resources the players need to help them reach their maximum potential,” Majali told Al-Monitor.

This year has seen the highest number of esports events in Jordan, thanks to efforts from Jordan e-Games, Fate Esports and Friday Night Championship. To keep this momentum going, sponsors and big companies have to provide more support. Increasing awareness about esports will hopefully open more opportunities for local players to become sponsored and compete globally, and help the business side of esports bloom.

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