Interview with Arslan Ash ESPN’s Esports Player of the Year

Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team

Arslan Ash details his meteoric rise to the top

Pakistani gamer defies the odds to topple the world’s best Tekken players.

Arslan Ash has gone from a young child sleepwalking to his local gaming zone to be crowned the world’s best Tekken player and ESPN’s sports player of the year.

The 24-year-old defied his family’s wishes to pursue a potential career as a doctor in Lahore to become a professional gamer, a move that has paid off handsomely.

Ash has dethroned ‘Knee’ as the world’s best Tekken player, beating the South Korean four times in the last calendar year as well as becoming the first player to win two EVO titles in one season, clinching overall victory in both Japan and the USA.

But that he even made it to both events is a minor miracle. His trip to Japan took five flights and two-and-a-half days of travelling, only arriving at the venue with minutes to spare, while he had to delay flying to America for 24 hours after losing his passport and visa stamp.

For him, the results and the prize money are the realisation of a two-decade-long ambition. He said: “When I was four years old, there used to be gaming zones in front of our house. My parents tell me that at times when they used to wake up around 3 or 4am, they used to find the main gate of the house open and me sleeping in the gaming zone instead of in my bed. This was the height of my passion for gaming. Imagine my craze that I used to sleepwalk into the gaming zone.”

His father, who tragically passed away just as his son’s gaming career was taking off, and his mother both pushed for him to pursue his studies. An A+ student, he decided a career as potentially a doctor or dentist was not for him, his belief in his own gaming ability such he felt he would be able to provide for his family more readily by pursuing that particular career path.

“When I went abroad to play the tournaments, I had to pick one thing – either my studies or the tournaments,” he said. “Because you can’t be perfect in both. I picked gaming instead.

“My father had passed away by then and my mother was not happy with me because in Pakistan people don’t know about gaming. But I knew I would earn more this way. My mother became depressed over my decision. My family said I had wasted their money because they invested a lot in my studies. But I thought to myself that I will show everyone that I picked the right path.”

That risky decision has proved a master stroke and, understandably, his family have been turned around from being original doubters.

As for his mother, who he credits for 80% of his success on the world stage, he said: “Now she is very happy. And she is telling everyone that my son won the EVO championship and now I am very famous in my area. I have now told my mother to stop working. Now she spends her time enjoying life like she should.”

While Ash’s story is not quite one of rags to riches – he came from a middle-class family in Pakistan – there were still major obstacles to overcome. For one, gaming in his youth wasn’t a big scene in Pakistan and, secondly, he did not have the money initially to travel to international competitions, which was first made possible when he won the Pakistan Tekken 6 Grand Masters Championship.

But friends and family mustered the required money for him to travel to his first international tournament, KOF GCC in Muscat, Oman, in 2018. “I did not have the money,” he said, “so, I spoke to friends about it. Deep down, I knew if I went, I would win because I was No.1 in Pakistan.” That faith was repaid with a duly promised victory followed by winning at the OUG Tournament and PLG Tournament in Dubai.

Since then, he has continued to adjust his goals amid a meteoric rise in the gaming world.

“I always move forward with a dream to achieve,” he said. “Ten years ago, my dream was to collect 100,000 Pakistani rupees. My next dream was to become the No1 player in Pakistan. Then it was to become No1 player in the whole world and win two consecutive EVOs for Pakistan. I have fulfilled that.”

As for his goals for 2020, that remains to be seen.

Read the full original interview on Red HERE.

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