E-sports prodigy Arslan Ash battled visa issues, naysayers and the world’s top Tekken players to work his way up to being named ‘ESPN Esports Athlete of 2019.’ Now, officially a Red Bull athlete, Arslan tells Hive Life his inspiring story.
Pakistani prodigy, underdog and Tekken legend are just some of the names Arslan Ash might go by. The Internet has been abuzz trying to keep up with the man who went from being nameless in the gaming community to becoming the player to beat – not just in his hometown of Lahore, but on a global scale. Arslan Ash made a name for himself in 2018 when he won the Omni Universal Gaming Tournament in Dubai, defeating South Korean player Jae-Min “Knee” Bae, a legend in gaming circles and one of the best Tekken players in the game. Despite his shocking victory, most fellow gamers brushed it off as a fluke. Arslan, however, who had fought tooth-and-nail just to be given a chance to compete on a global level, wasn’t about to let it go to waste. He told us how he played his way out of his bedroom in Pakistan to one of the world’s largest e-sports tournaments.
Photo Credit: redbull.com
Despite his burgeoning success in the billion-dollar world of e-sports, Arslan is still as humble as the boy who started out spending hours at his local arcade. When asked what it was about the community of players in Pakistan that allowed his talent to reach new heights, he responded simply, “I think we are united when we play.” Perhaps, it was exactly this unison that helped him realise his own potential early on. Arslan claims he not only dreamt of playing on a world stage, but of winning. “I used to think I was capable of competing on an international level because I won many national tournaments before competing on an international level.”
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Reigning supreme over the Tekken scene from Pakistan, Arslan’s number one obstacle wasn’t his competitors; it was access. The 24-year-old gamer grew up in a community where Tekken was a hugely popular game, but because all of the biggest tournaments like EVO, an annual e-sports event exclusively featuring fighting games founded in 1996, took place in Japan and Las Vegas, obtaining visas to attend these tournaments was the first hurdle Arslan had to face. Luckily, his spot as the number one Tekken player in Pakistan garnered him the support of people in his community, leading to financial help from his friends and family in order to register to travel. “I had to struggle a lot,” admits Arslan. Despite this, Arslan stays committed to maintaining a routine, albeit, an unconventional one, but one that works for him. “I wake up at 4 am. I say my prayers, list out the things I need to do during the day, and prepare meals before I go to the gym,” says Arslan. “When I’m done with that, I go to the local arcade for a practice session, usually for six to eight hours.”
Photo Credit: redbull.com
Although Arslan grew up dedicated to the game, his plan wasn’t always to become the Red Bull e-sports athlete that he is today. “At first I couldn’t believe it when Red Bull reached out to me because of what I did – winning two EVO tournaments. I was so happy that my hard work was going to pay off in a very good way.” Having studied Medical Science at college before switching to Chartered Accountancy, he was faced with the difficult decision: education or gaming. Only when he started travelling internationally did he decide to drop his studies to pursue a career in Tekken full-time – a choice later proved worth it when he won first place at EVO America in Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, and EVO Japan in Fukuoka in 2019, earning him about USD 28,000 in prize money, millions of views on Youtube and the title of ‘ESPN Esports Athlete of 2019.’
Now, his hopes are causing him to retrace his steps back home. “What I really want is for more sponsors to come to Pakistan and invest their money in Tekken here,” says the Red Bull-sponsored athlete. Featured on the cover of Billboard Pakistan, Arslan’s continuing success has demanded the respect that he’s gone through so much to get, and his growing legion of supporters anticipate seeing the underdog defend his title as the World’s Tekken 7 Champion at EVO America 2020.
Banner Photo Credit: redbull.com