A Pakistani gamer’s journey to becoming one of the best Tekken players in the world

Tekken 7 creator and director, Katsuhiro Harada, handing Arslan 'Ash' Siddique the EVO Japan 2023 trophy on April 2, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Arslan Siddique)
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Updated 25 April 2023
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A Pakistani gamer’s journey to becoming one of the best Tekken players in the world

  • Siddique has collected two dozen trophies and earned the most money by any eSports player based in Pakistan
  • Crowned eSports player of the year, Siddique has made a name for himself in Japan, America and the Middle East

LAHORE: Four years after conquering Japan and America, Pakistan’s Arslan ‘Ash’ Siddique this month won another Evolution Championship Series (EVO), an annual esports event that focuses exclusively on fighting games, cementing his place as one of the best Tekken players in the world. 

Siddique has collected almost two dozen trophies, earned the most money by any eSports player based in Pakistan, and been crowned eSports player of the year multiple times. Since 2021, he has also launched a boot camp to train other talented Tekken players from Pakistan, many of whom have gone on to win important tournaments. 

His own major titles include, among others, EVO 2019 in Las Vegas, the WePlay Ultimate Fighting League 2021 in Kyiv, Ukraine, and EVO Japan 2019 and 2023. The creator and director of Tekken 7, Katsuhiro Harada, himself presented Siddique with his latest trophy. 

All in all, he has won 22 Tekken 7 tournaments around the world and earned $123,169 in prize money alone, not counting the income from his YouTube channel and sponsorship deals. The only person to surpass Siddique’s Tekken earnings is his arch-rival, Korea’s Bae ‘Knee’ Jae-Min. But Jae-Min has been competing professionally for over 13 years while Siddique has been competing for just under five. Siddique also beat ‘Knee’ in the final of EVO 2019 and had previously bested him at a tournament in Dubai. 

“I think my defense is very strong,” Siddique told Arab News in an interview at his home in Lahore earlier this month, explaining his strengths and saying he relied on “evasive maneuvers and decision-making.” 




The picture taken on April 15, 2023, shows WePlay Ultimate Fighting League 2021 poster from Kyiv, Ukraine, where Pakistani Tekken players Arslan 'Ash' Siddique and Awais 'Honey' finished 1st and 2nd respectively. (AN photo)

Part of his strong defense, Siddique said, was his character of choice Zafina, an Arab-origin character introduced in Tekken 6. 

“Zafina’s back dash and low block are really good, she can evade a lot, and she can punish people afterwards,” Siddique explained, as a Tekken 7 wall clock ticked behind him. 

Before Zafina, Siddique used to play with Kazumi, a character in a white kimono who also had a stonewall defense, but after she was nerfed — which in gaming refers to a character or weapon’s power being reduced in a new instalment or update of a video game — Siddique had to find a replacement. 

“I asked my [mother] which character do you like. [She] looked at all the characters and said the one wearing a scarf, ‘Zafina, I like her a lot’,” Siddique said, smiling. “Because [my mother] is a Muslim and Zafina, she’s an Egyptian.” 




The picture taken on April 15, 2023, shows Arslan 'Ash' Siddique's EVO World Championship Series 2019 trophy at his house in Lahore, Pakistan. (AN photo)

Siddique grew up in Daroghawala, a humble area in the Old City neighborhood of Lahore, and said he developed an interest in Tekken when he was just eight years old. 

“After school I would directly go to the arcade in front of my house to play games.” 

From there, Siddique went on to bigger arcades and inner city tournaments. 

Now 27 and married this February, gaming remains his primary source of income. 

“I never thought I’d make it this far,” he said, speaking about the criticism he received from friends and family for choosing gaming as a profession. “This is why I want to support other people who want to become professional gamers.” 

To this end, Siddique has set up a Tekken boot camp in the living room of his home in Lahore’s upscale Gulberg neighborhood, where people come to train from all over the country. He has also started his own fighting game team called Ashes Gaming. 

“Atif [Butt] has won [trophies], [Imran] Khan has won, [Awais[ Honey has won, Heera [Malik],” he said, naming players who had trained at his boot camp. “I mean slowly but surely everybody’s won something, and given good performances wherever they went.” 




The picture taken on April 15, 2023, shows TheScore eSports Player of the Year 2019 award at Arslan 'Ash' SIddique's house in Lahore, Pakistan. (AN photo)

Outside virtual reality, Siddique’s career got its big launch in the Arab world. His first sponsor, in 2018, was the Dubai-based vSlash eSports. Siddique then joined FATE eSports in 2020, a Jordanian team. In March of this year, he joined an eSports team from Saudi Arabia called Twisted Minds, their first representative in the fighting game community. 

Siddique has concurrently also been sponsored by Red Bull eSports since 2019. 

“I’ve always had huge respect for the strides gaming has made in the Middle East and what it means for gamers in Pakistan,” he said, wearing a Twisted Minds shirt and Red Bull cap. 

One of Siddique’s earliest trophies, between the Japan and America hauls in 2019, was in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, he said, where he won $17,000. 

A year before that, he had won the King of Fighters IV tournaments in Oman and Kuwait, often using his favorite character ‘Ash,’ from which he took his gaming moniker. Then, he went on to Dubai. 

“The Dubai one was my fourth [Tekken tournament]. The first time I went, it was in Oman. [Then] I lost in Malaysia. Then I went to Dubai for [a small] tournament, which I won.” 

After that Siddique went to another, larger tournament in Dubai, Omni Universal Gaming (OUG) 2018, where ‘Knee’ and a lot of other big players were coming. He convinced his sponsors in Dubai to invite him a second time. 

“I made a name for myself. Knee was considered, is still considered, one of the best, or like the GOAT [Greatest Of All Time] of Tekken,” said Siddique, saying beating Knee gave him a lot of exposure. “That there’s someone who can defeat the Tekken legend himself.” 

But while Siddique has many accolades and wins to his name, he has also missed out on half the tournaments he has been invited to in the last few years, including his own sponsor Red Bull’s Kumite tournament in America in 2021. The reason: the lack of support the Pakistan government offers for eSport visas. 

All this, Siddique said, despite having won ‘best eSports player of the year’ awards from ESPN and TheScore, in addition to other media organizations. 

But the champion still aspires to keep winning for Pakistan, including at EVO 2023 in Las Vegas. 

“The biggest tournament is always Las Vegas, it’s on August 5-7,” Siddique said. “Inshallah I’ll do [more] positive things for the gaming community in Pakistan.” 


Kuramagomedov takes welterweight world title at Bellator Champions Series Dublin

Updated 23 June 2024
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Kuramagomedov takes welterweight world title at Bellator Champions Series Dublin

  • Paul Hughes shines on Bellator debut with second round TKO

Dublin: Bellator Champions Series Dublin crowned a new champion at the 3Arena in Dublin as Ramazan Kuramagomedov defeated Jason Jackson to extend his unbeaten streak and become the new Bellator welterweight world champion in a gruelling five-round battle.

Kuramagomedov was visibly emotional after he achieved his life-long dream of becoming a champion after a hard-fought unanimous-decision victory.

In the co-main event, the Irish welcomed Derry’s Paul Hughes who stepped into the cage for his Bellator Champions Series debut and rose to the occasion as he stopped Bobby King via TKO in the second round. “Big News” Hughes lived up to his moniker, confirming to the MMA world that he will be a prospect to watch for years to come.

Australia’s Arlene Blencowe silenced the 3Arena when she dropped Sinead Kavanagh and followed up with a guillotine choke to force the tap. The two fighters exchanged heavy hands in the first round, with “Angerfist” landing a strong straight right hand on Kavanagh in the second round followed by the successful submission.

Dalton Rosta had his hand raised after a three-round battle with Norbert Novenyi after a wildly entertaining middleweight bout. The pair exchanged heavy offence, with Dalton displaying his resilience in the third round as he fought through adversity after big elbows from Novenyi to secure the majority decision win.

The main card kicked off with a win in the Irish column as Darragh Kelly remained undefeated after he put Mathias Poiron to sleep after a tight guillotine that brought the home crowd to their feet and put the lightweight division on notice.

 

Bellator Champions Series Dublin Main Card Results

Ramazan Kuramagomedov (13-0) beat Jason Jackson (18-5) via unanimous decision to become Bellator Welterweight World Champion

Paul Hughes (12-1) beat Bobby King (12-7) via second round TKO

Arlene Blencowe (16-10) beat Sinead Kavanagh (9-7) via second round guillotine

Dalton Rosta (9-1) beat Norbert Novenyi (7-1) via majority decision

Darragh Kelly (6-0) beat Mathias Poiron (7-2) via first round guillotine

 

Preliminary Card Results

Kasum Kasumov (16-1) beat Matheus Mattos (14-3-1) via unanimous decision

Nathan Kelly (11-2) beat Jose Sanchez (13-3-1) via first round front naked choke

Khasan Magomedsharipov (10-0) beat Tyler Mathison (6-4) via unanimous decision

Sarvarjon Khamidov (16-0) beat Marcirley Alves (12-4) via unanimous decision

Shinobu Ota (7-3) beat Roger Blanque (5-6) via first round north south choke

Michelle Montague beat Karolina Sobek via first round rear naked choke

Nate Kelly beat Paul Nolan via first round tap arm bar


Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica

Updated 23 June 2024
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Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica

  • Arteaga said the disallowed goal had given Mexico the impetus to go on and win the game
  • Mexico face Venezuela on Wednesday in Los Angeles with Jamaica up against Ecuador on the same day in Las Vegas

SANTA CLARA, California: Goals from substitutes Jhonder Cadiz and Eduard Bello gave Venezuela a 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador in their Copa America Group B match on Saturday.

In the group’s other game, Mexico made a winning start to their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Jamaica in Houston but lost their captain Edson Alvarez to injury.

Ecuador were forced to play with 10 men from the 22nd minute of the game at Levi Stadium when striker Enner Valencia was sent off for dangerous play.

The 34-year-old forward struck the chest of Venezuela defender Jose Martinez with his boot while challenging for a high, bouncing ball in the box and was initially awarded a yellow card but after a VAR review he was shown a straight red.

Ecuador, which had been in control of the game before the dismissal, responded well and went ahead in the 40th minute when Venezuela failed to clear a free-kick into the box and Jeremy Sarmiento pounced on the loose ball to drill home.

Venezuela head coach Fernando Batista made two changes at the break, bringing on Cadiz and Bello and both were to make a decisive impact.

“Vinotinto” striker Salomon Rondon laid the ball off to Cadiz, whose low side-footed shot from the edge of the box took a slight deflection as it flashed past Ecuador keeper Alexander Dominguez.

Then, in the 74th minute, Alexander Gonzalez whipped in a cross from the right, met with a diving header from Rondon which was parried by Dominguez but Bello reacted to fire home the loose ball.

“To be able to score a goal, which helped in the victory, and to have contributed to the first goal, is a joy. These three points are very important for what’s to come,” said a delighted Bello.

Ecuador’s Spanish coach Felix Sanchez said the red card for Valencia had forced him to change the team’s approach.

“We had to change the plan, wait a bit behind the opposition. It’s clear that when you play with 10 men you are at the mercy of the opposition for many minutes, even if you don’t want to play that way,” he said.

“Obviously it’s not the dream start, but there are two more games left and we have the team to compete. The most important thing is that the team recovers its spirit for what is to come.”

Mexico labored for long stretches against Jamaica before a superbly struck 69th minute goal from Gerardo Arteaga earned them the three points.

Jaime Lozano’s team suffered a major blow when their skipper, West Ham midfielder Alvarez had to go off in the 29th minute after going down without contact.

’El Tri’ struggled to create opportunities in the opening half with their best effort, a curling shot just wide from Luis Romo, just before the break.

Jamaica thought they had the lead in the 50th minute but Michail Antonio’s diving header was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.

That letoff woke up the Mexicans who pushed forward with greater purpose. Luis Chavez forced a good save out of Jamaica keeper Jahmali Waite and Julian Quinones fired over the bar after cutting in from the left.

Waite was alert again to keep out a Santiago Gimenez near post blast as the pressure built and finally Mexico got the breakthrough when the ball fell to Arteaga on the edge of the box and he blasted a perfectly struck half-volley into the far corner.

Jamaica had one last opportunity to salvage a point but Dexter Lembikisa’s low shot was turned round the post by Mexico keeper Julio Gonzalez.

Arteaga said the disallowed goal had given Mexico the impetus to go on and win the game.

“A goal, whether for or against, changes your mood a lot. And seeing that it had been disallowed, that also lifted us a little bit more to keep insisting and looking for the goal ourselves,” the left-back told TUDN.

Mexico face Venezuela on Wednesday in Los Angeles with Jamaica up against Ecuador on the same day in Las Vegas.

“We know there’s not going to be an easy opponent. Thank God we won against Jamaica and now we want to go for another win,” said Arteaga.


Hatton leads by 3, DeChambeau lurks, Rahm’s Legion XIII grab team lead at LIV Golf Nashville

Updated 23 June 2024
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Hatton leads by 3, DeChambeau lurks, Rahm’s Legion XIII grab team lead at LIV Golf Nashville

  • Hatton birdied six of his final seven holes at The Grove en route to a bogey-free 7-under 64
  • With Legion XIII leading the team competition by five strokes over the Crushers, plenty of hardware is up for grabs among the top four players

COLLEGE GROVE, Tennessee: After a frustrating early string of nine consecutive pars, Tyrrell Hatton found another gear down the stretch in Saturday’s second round of LIV Golf Nashville.

As a result, the Legion XIII star is 18 holes away from his first individual title since joining LIV Golf.But first, he will have to hold off his closest pursuers, including a reserve player seeking a storybook result, and a couple of two-time major winners — including last week’s US Open champion.Hatton birdied six of his final seven holes at The Grove en route to a bogey-free 7-under 64.

His two-day total of 13 under leaves him three strokes ahead of Crushers GC’s John Catlin, the replacement for the injured Charles Howell III. Their captains — the Crushers’ Bryson DeChambeau and Legion XIII’s Jon Rahm, two of LIV Golf’s biggest stars — are another stroke back, tied for third at 9 under.

With Legion XIII leading the team competition by five strokes over the Crushers, plenty of hardware is up for grabs among the top four players. “I’ll probably be a little bit nervous tomorrow, but I’d say that’s a good thing,” said Hatton, whose last professional title was in 2021. “Obviously if you’re nervous about something, you genuinely care about it.”

The individual leaderboard was packed for the first half of Saturday— at one point, more than 30 players were within four shots of the lead. But then Hatton went on a birdie binge that included a chip-in at the par-3 13th, followed by a 30-foot putt on the 14th.

“Around this golf course, if you hit the ball good, you’re going to have a lot of opportunities for birdie,” said Hatton, who joined LIV Golf in the offseason to play for Rahm’s expansion team. “You don’t want to be making too many pars. It was kind of OK in the end, but I guess tomorrow I wouldn’t want to be stringing 10 pars in a row, obviously, when you’re being chased.”

Catlin shot his second consecutive 66, playing his final nine holes in a bogey-free 4 under. Having competed on multiple tours across the globe and with 13 professional wins, Catlin welcomes the opportunity to write his own Cinderella story this week. No reserve player has ever finished inside the top five of a LIV Golf tournament.

“I’ve been here before and I can honestly say I’ve won before, and I can do it again,” he said. “I’m going to go out and control what I can control, and we’ll see what happens.”

DeChambeau has battled fatigued in the whirlwind aftermath of last Sunday’s tense US Open victory at Pinehurst. He bogeyed two of his first three holes Saturday but avoided further trouble, finishing with four birdies in his last seven holes as he fed off the energy of the sold-out crowd.

“I’m proud of the way that I’ve managed my energy, although I have close to zero right now,” DeChambeau said. “… All I want is a shot on the back nine, and that back nine is gettable. Hopefully, I can get the job done tomorrow.”

Entering this week, Rahm was unsure how competitive he would be after withdrawing during the second round of LIV Golf Houston with a foot infection that forced him to miss the US Open.

After an opening 70, he produced the lowest score of the second round, an 8-under 63 that included nine birdies. That ties for his lowest round relative to par in LIV Golf.

“I needed a round like that to get close to the lead,” Rahm said. “Obviously, Tyrrell finished fantastic. Still a little bit of work to do tomorrow.”Hatton, Catlin and DeChambeau will play in the leaders’ group off the first tee, with Rahm playing with Ripper GC captain Cameron Smith and Torque GC’s Carlos Ortiz — the winner two weeks ago at LIV Golf Houston — in the earlier group that starts off the first tee at 12:05 p.m. CDT. Smith and Ortiz are tied for fifth at 8 under.

Team counting scores

Standings and counting scores for Saturday’s second round of the team competition at LIV Golf Nashville:

1. LEGION XIII -28 (Rahm 63, Hatton 64, Vincent 66; Rd. 2 score: -20)

2. CRUSHERS GC -23 (Catlin 66, DeChambeau 66, Lahiri 68; Rd. 2 score: -13)

3. MAJESTICKS GC -19 (Westwood 66, Poulter 67, Horsfield 68; Rd. 2 score: -12)

4. TORQUE GC -18 (Ortiz 66, Niemann 69, Pereira 69; Rd. 2 score: -9)

5. IRON HEADS GC -15 (Kozuma 67, Na 67, Vincent 67; Rd. 2 score: -12)

6. CLEEKS GC -14 (Meronk 66, Bland 67, Kaymer 70; Rd. 2 score: -10)

T7. SMASH GC -13 (Kokrak 65, McDowell 68, Gooch 69; Rd. 2 score: -11)

T7. STINGER GC -13 (Burmester 66, Grace 68, Oosthuizen 70; Rd. 2 score: -9)

T7. FIREBALLS GC -13 (Chacarra 70, Garcia 71, Puig 73; Rd. 2 score: +1)

10. RIPPER GC -11 (Smith 65, Leishman 69, Jones 72; Rd. 2 score: -7)

11. 4ACES GC -8 (Varner III 64, Perez 69, Reed 70; Rd. 2 score: -10)

T12. RANGEGOATS GC -6 (Wolff 67, Pieters 68, Watson 71; Rd. 2 score: -7)

T12. HYFLYERS GC -6 (Steele 67, Mickelson 70, Tringale 70; Rd. 2 score: -6)


India makes 196 and beats Bangladesh by 50 at Twenty20 World Cup

Updated 23 June 2024
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India makes 196 and beats Bangladesh by 50 at Twenty20 World Cup

  • Put into bat, India started quick as captain Rohit Sharma scored 23 off 11 balls
  • Virat Kohli added 37 off 28, hitting three sixes

NORTH SOUND, Antigua: Hardik Pandya blasted Bangladesh with a 27-ball half-century and Kuldeep Yadav’s three wickets finished off India’s win at the Twenty20 World Cup on Saturday.
Pandya struck four boundaries and three sixes in an unbeaten 50 to lead India to 196-5.
Yadav then took 3-19 in four overs to limit Bangladesh to 146-8.
India moved to the top of Group 1 in the Super Eight with two wins from two matches. Bangladesh was winless.
Put into bat, India started quick as captain Rohit Sharma scored 23 off 11 balls. Virat Kohli added 37 off 28, hitting three sixes. The duo put on 39 off 22 balls for India’s best opening stand in the tournament.
Sharma was caught in the fourth over off Shakib al Hasan, while Kohli put on another 32 off 27 balls with Rishabh Pant for the second wicket.
Tanzim Hasan Sakib struck twice in the ninth over, getting Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav for 6 as India slumped to 77-3.
But Rishabh Pant anchored one end with 36 off 24, including four fours and two sixes, putting on 31 off 19 balls with Shivam Dube.
Despite Pant’s dismissal in the 12th over, Dube’s prowess against spin came in handy — he hit three sixes, scoring 34 off 24 balls.
But it was Pandya who took charge in the death overs. India scored 62 runs in the last five overs.
Pandya was named player of the match.
“We have played some really good cricket (to win five straight games),” he said. “We have executed our plans well, but as a group we can still improve. We sometimes lose wickets in a bunch, but apart from that things are looking good.”
Bangladesh’s reply made a steady start. Openers Litton Das (13) and Tanzid Hasan (29) added 35 off 27 until Pandya got the breakthrough in the fifth over.
The Tigers were at 66-2 in the 10th over and scoring slower. The chase unraveled when Yadav came on to bowl. He trapped Hasan lbw, and dismissed Towhid Hridoy for 4 and claimed the big wicket of Shakib for 11.
Bangladesh lost three wickets for 32 runs across 24 balls and didn’t recover.
Pace bowlers Jasprit Bumrah (2-13) and Arshdeep Singh (2-30) helped to seal India’s fifth win over Bangladesh in the T20 World Cup.


Afghanistan stun Australia with 21-run T20 World Cup win

Updated 23 June 2024
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Afghanistan stun Australia with 21-run T20 World Cup win

  • Gulbadin Naib was Afghanistan’s man with the golden arm, bowling his team to tense 21-run victory over unbeaten Australia 
  • Both teams are on two points after two games, with Australia facing Group One leaders India in their final match

Arnos Vale, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Gulbadin Naib was Afghanistan’s man with the golden arm, bowling his team to a tense 21-run victory over previously unbeaten Australia in a Group One Super Eight encounter of the T20 World Cup at the Arnos Vale Stadium in St. Vincent on Saturday.
Set a target of 149, Glenn Maxwell (59 off 41 balls, six fours, three sixes) kept the Test and One-Day champions on course until he became Gulbadin’s third wicket in the 15th over, opening the door to a result which keeps the duel for semifinal spots alive going into the final two fixtures in the group on Monday.
Gulbadin finished with four for 20 from his four overs of medium pace to turn the match as Australia suffered their first-ever defeat to the Afghans in a senior international encounter, being dismissed for 127 with four balls left in the match.
Earlier, Pat Cummins claimed his second hat-trick in as many matches as Afghanistan lost momentum after another century opening stand from Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran, settling for a total of 148 for six after being put in.
Both teams are on two points after two games — with Australia facing Group One leaders India in their final match while Afghanistan play Bangladesh, who have lost both their Super Eights games.