Arslan Ash: The Incredible Ascension of the Pakistani Tekken Legend

From playing at gaming arcades in his hometown of Lahore to winning two EVO tournaments, the Pakistani Tekken prodigy shares his inspiring journey of his incredible ascension to the top.

One of the most common yet inspiring trope in every narrative art form is that of the rise of the underdog. We follow our protagonist, be it an athlete, an artist or a salesperson, face insurmountable odds and come out of it a winner. And we can argue whether art imitates life or vice versa. There are as many rags-to-riches stories in real life as there are in films and books. What’s definite is that we never grow tired of these stories. Always uplifting, inspiring and we find ourselves rooting for our hero to overcome all the odds and rise to the top. Just like rooting for Frodo in Lord of the Rings, Iqbal in the 2005 Indian namesake film or Jamal Malik in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, Pakistan has found itself cheering for the young Tekken champion Arslan Ash.

About Arslan:

Ash, born Arslan Siddique to Muhammad and Khadija Siddique, is a 24-year old young gun from the historic city of Lahore, who has become the world’s best Tekken player in no time. Coming from a middle-class family, Ash was preparing to be a doctor, something that was a combined wish of his parents and himself. He loved gaming to an extent that he would always be

“When I was four-years-old, there used to be gaming zones in front of our house,” says Ash. “My parents tell me that at times when they used to wake up around 3 or 4 am, 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.”

Arslan was an  A+ student till his matriculation and by his mid-teenage years, he was also very well known in the local gaming circuit. “People used to say this little kid comes and beats everyone at the game. So, I was good in studies as well as gaming. But after 10th there was a national level tournament with the name of Pakistan Tekken 6 Grand Masters Championship (GMC). This was the biggest tournament in Pakistan and I won it. After that, everyone started recognizing me. Then I started going to other cities for gaming and became popular in Pakistan.”

However, this success in gaming caused his studies to suffer. Around this time, his father passed away too so his mother and two elder brothers ran the house, with his mother working as a tailor and a painter.

Arslan’s Childhood:

Arslan reminisces about his childhood. Back then, his father used to be strict with him. While his mother let him play games because he was good at it.

Despite resistance, he continued playing and winning city, district and national level tournaments in Pakistan, establishing himself as the man to beat. When his friends suggested that Ash should try for international tournaments, he did not have the money or the resources to go.

“I did not have the money. So, I spoke to my friends about it. Deep down I knew if I go, I would win because I was number one in Pakistan. My friends collected money for registration and my family, especially my mother supported me a lot in this.”

The First Tekken Journey:

And so, Arslan embarked on his first international Tekken tournament: KOF GCC 2018 in Muscat, Oman where players competed in King of Fighters, Street Fighters and Tekken tournaments. Ash’s belief in himself paid off and he won the Tekken tournament and even scored 4th place in the King of Fighters.

But with success, life took a dramatic turn. Ash now had to make a crucial choice that would dictate his life for years to come.

“When I went abroad to play the tournaments, I had to pick one thing. Either my studies or the tournaments. Because you cannot be perfect in both. Also, studies were now at higher level because I was doing CA. I did not get good grades in medical field so my mother suggested instead of going for dentistry, I should go for CA because I could earn more in that field,” says the Tekken champion. “No one in our family was a CA. She said you are sharp and you can utilize your mind in this field. I cleared one module. But when I started travelling internationally, I had to pick one: gaming or CA. So I picked gaming instead. Now I feel proud that I chose to pursue my passion.”

He continues, “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.”

And that he undoubtedly did.

He says, “You become what’s written in your fate. I wanted to be a doctor but I learnt that if I am doing well and can be a better gamer than I’d be as an engineer or a doctor then why not pursue my passion?”

The Journey Continues:

Even with the right mindset, one can see that one can’t financially survive as a full-time professional gamer in Pakistan. Ash understands this. “Gaming sector is not much developed in Pakistan compared to Europe or the USA, or even Korea and Japan. Kids there are encouraged by parents to become professional gamers. But in Pakistan, very few people are so good at gaming that they can earn through it.

Arslan, fortunately, was that damn good. From Oman, he went to Selangor, Malaysia to participate in FV X SEA Major Malaysia where he ranked in the 9-12th place. After making his name known in Oman and Malaysia, he participated in OUG Tournament and PLG Tournament 2018 in Dubai. He won both of them. It was at OUG where Ash would have his first encounter with the Tekken legend from South Korea ‘Knee’.

“At OUG, world’s number one player “Knee” was also there. We faced each other in the grand finale. I was nervous but I somehow won the competition. This brought me fame. The international gaming world now took some notice that there is a guy named Arslan. Even then not many knew.”

Things changed drastically when Ash went to participate in EVO Japan 2019 in February. The story of his journey from Pakistan to Japan is already legendary. Apart from facing delayed visa issues, he switched five flights over two and a half days to reach Japan on the day of the competition. Four hours before the tournament started, he was still struggling to exchange Pakistani rupee for Japanese yen.

With the clock hanging over his head, Ash managed to reach the venue just in time to participate. A dark horse in the massive tournament, he came out a winner in his first attempt and shocked the world. More heads turned in his direction.

But Arslan hasn’t given up. He went on and won EVO USA 2019 as well, in the process defeating the world’s greatest Tekken player Knee four times including at OUG, EVO Japan and finally EVO USA.

A Historical Event:

Ash shares a hilarious story about his journey to the US. “You know how difficult getting the US visa is. I got it with a lot of trouble. Now I had to go for World Showdown of Esports (WSOE) 2019 and after a week it was EVO USA.”

“Just a week before my flight I lost my passport with the US visa stamped on it. I got so depressed for three days but didn’t lose hope. I got an emergency passport made, emailed the embassy and requested for a re-interview for the visa. It was impossible but I got the visa the day I was supposed to fly in the morning. So, I obviously missed the flight and flew the next day.”

He continued, “When I arrived in the US, I was already losing since I had not appeared in the first round. And then I was so jetlagged I just could not perform at all.” Ash still came in 7-8th place in WSOE. Then for a week, he prepared for EVO USA and won the tournament.

There is still no stopping Ash as he has made history after being signed as the first Red Bull athlete based in Pakistan. “It’s a dream for a gamer to be signed as a Red Bull athlete. At least it was my wish to get sponsored by Red Bull because they have a huge presence in the gaming industry. So, this partnership with Red Bull is like joining my family.”


The Legend of Tekken:

The young Tekken master’s words echo with a confident humility as he sets his sight on the next dream to fulfill. “I always move forward with a dream to achieve. 10 years ago, my dream was to collect one hundred thousand (Pakistani) rupees. My next dream was to become the number one player in Pakistan. Then it was to become number one player in the whole world and to win two consecutive EVOs for Pakistan. I have fulfilled that.”

Arslan’s next dream might come true sooner. Ash was listed amongst the TOP 20 players to be invited to compete at TEKKEN World Tour 2019 finals on December 8, 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand. With Geese and Kazumi being his loyal go-to characters for competitions (even though his favorite player remains Nina) and with eight hours of daily practice, it won’t be a surprise to see Ash win that tournament as well. Once the ultimate underdog has now become a dynasty.

Apart from gaming, Ash also likes to stay fit. As gaming involves hours of sitting in one place, it’s important that an e-sports athlete maintains his health. “The world has to know that I am fit as an athlete. My goal is that I go to gym because you know, fitness is important for gaming.”

He Achieves it All:

Lastly, after facing so many odds and overcoming them all, Ash now feels grateful. “After my father, my mother brought me up. I believe I have got my competitive nature from her as she was also an athlete back in her college days. She taught me how to control my nerves before the tournament, how to take care of my diet, etc. Forget about winning or losing, just focus on the game. So yes, she keeps guiding me how to be more in control. She does not know about Tekken but she knows how to compete.”

He continues, “It is completely because of my mom’s prayers and Allah. I feel so blessed that I have achieved so much. For everything I have done, 80% credit goes to my mom.”

With such an inspirational story and his ‘overnight’ success with about a decade of hard work behind it, how does his mother feel today?

“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.”

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