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.” 


Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

Updated 25 May 2024
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Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

  • Skipper Jos Buttler, who smashed 84 off 51 balls, was the star of the England batting
  • Babar Azam praises Pakistani bowlers but says that the team could not finish well

BIRMINGHAM: Jofra Archer claimed two wickets on his long-awaited return to international cricket as England beat Pakistan by 23 runs at Edgbaston to move 1-0 up in the four-match T20 series.
England captain Jos Buttler won man-of-the-match after he smashed 84 off 51 balls to set the hosts a target of 184.
But it was Archer’s return that caught the eye as he made a case for selection in next month’s T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies no harm.
The fast bowler has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
On his first international appearance for 14 months, and first on home soil since 2020, Archer bounced back from an expensive first over, which went for 15 runs, to finish with two for 28.
“I thought Jofra Archer was brilliant,” said Buttler. “You could see his emotion taking wickets for England again but we need to temper those expectations because he’s not going to be the same straight away.
“I’m really pleased with the whole bowling group.”
Muhammad Rizwan was removed in the first over by Moeen Ali and Reece Topley took three wickets for 41.
Buttler was the star of the England batting with three sixes and eight fours.
He was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
Five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back with Shaheen Shah Afridi the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
“We got them to a par score, our bowlers bowled very well and we had our moments when we were batting,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam.
Fakhar Zaman’s 45 from 21 balls gave the Pakistan chase some impetus, but after he departed the pace of Archer, Topley and Chris Jordan ripped through the tourists’ tail with four balls to spare.
“We didn’t finish well. We had a small partnership, myself and Fakhar but we didn’t get any other 40 or 50 partnerships that England did,” added Azam.
England lead the four-match series 1-0 after the first match was washed out on Wednesday.


Crespo’s Al Ain beat Yokohama 5-1 to win Asian Champions League

Updated 45 min 23 sec ago
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Crespo’s Al Ain beat Yokohama 5-1 to win Asian Champions League

  • Al Ain won the inaugural Champions League final in 2003 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2016
  • Crespo had promised “hell” for Yokohama and thousands of fans in white robes and headdresses let off flares and chanted outside before packing out Hazza bin Zayed Stadium

AL-AIN, UAE: Hernan Crespo’s Al Ain steamrollered 10-man Yokohama F-Marinos 5-1 in the Asian Champions League final return leg to lift the trophy for the second time in their history on Saturday.
The hosts trailed 2-1 from the away fixture but two goals from Soufiane Rahimi, a Kaku penalty and Kodjo Laba’s late double ensured a 6-3 aggregate victory after Yokohama goalkeeper William Popp saw red just before half-time.
Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates’ most successful club, won the inaugural Champions League final in 2003 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2016.
Harry Kewell’s Yokohama were attempting to become the fourth Japanese winners after Gamba Osaka, Kashima Antlers and three-time winners Urawa Red Diamonds.
The win will be all the sweeter for Crespo after the 2005 European Champions League final, when the ex-Argentina international scored twice for AC Milan before Kewell’s Liverpool came back to win on penalties.
Crespo had promised “hell” for Yokohama and thousands of fans in white robes and headdresses let off flares and chanted outside before packing out Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
With temperatures still hovering above 30 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) at the 8:00 p.m. kick-off, Al Ain were ahead after just nine minutes.
Yahia Nader’s sweet backheel wrong-footed the defense and tournament top-scorer Rahimi rifled a low shot into the net for his 12th of the competition.
Ken Matsubara had a fizzing shot tipped wide but Al Ain doubled their advantage in the 34th minute after Shinnosuke Hatanaka brought down Rahimi in the box.
After a VAR review, Uzbek referee Ilgiz Tantashev pointed to the spot and Paraguay international Kaku smashed it into the bottom right, sparking delirium in the stands.
Al Ain’s joy was doused as Yokohama’s Yan Matheus stole a bouncing ball from Kouame Kouadio, then turned the defender inside-out and finished left-footed to make it 2-1 and 3-3 on aggregate.
But the half — which stretched to an extraordinary 62 minutes — finished badly for Yokohama when goalkeeper William Popp felled the on-rushing Rahimi and was sent off deep into injury time.
After the restart, a depleted Yokohama lived dangerously when Hatanaka, under pressure from Rahimi, parried a deep cross onto his own crossbar.
The visitors were creaking and on 67 minutes, Rahimi picked up a rebound, rounded a defender and lashed it past substitute ‘keeper Fuma Shirasaka at his near post.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Yokohama, who also had Hatanaka stretchered off, and Togolese substitute Laba pierced their porous defense twice in another long spell of injury time.
Al Ain had already won bragging rights over neighboring Saudi Arabia, whose teams spent more than a billion dollars on players including Cristiano Ronaldo last year, with their Asian campaign.
Crespo’s side ousted Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in the quarter-finals before halting Al Hilal’s top-flight-record streak of 34 consecutive wins when they met in the semis.
With their victory, Al Ain also reach the new-look, 32-team Club World Cup, whose inaugural staging is scheduled for June and July next year in the United States.


Man United win the FA Cup after stunning Man City 2-1 in the final

Updated 25 May 2024
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Man United win the FA Cup after stunning Man City 2-1 in the final

  • United’s first silverware of the season deprived crosstown rival City of the first back-to-back English league-cup doubles
  • United also qualified for the Europa League next season

LONDON: Manchester United won the FA Cup after stunning defending champion Manchester City 2-1 in the final at Wembley on Saturday.
United’s first silverware of the season deprived crosstown rival City of the first back-to-back English league-cup doubles. United also qualified for the Europa League next season.
The final was a repeat of last year’s which City won 2-1, and Pep Guardiola’s team did not give up their trophy without a fight.
Alejandro Garnacho opened the scoring in the 30th minute after mistakes from City defender Josko Gvardiol and goalkeeper Stefan Ortega.
Kobbie Mainoo then added a second goal in the 39th to spark passionate celebrations from manager Erik ten Hag, whose job was under intense scrutiny going into the final.
United were in control at halftime but City piled the pressure on in the second half and eventually got back into the game through substitute Jeremy Doku’s long range shot into the bottom corner in the 87th.
By that point Erling Haaland had hit the bar, Kyle Walker had forced goalkeeper Andre Onana into two outstretched saves, and substitute Julian Alvarez missed the target from close range with only the keeper to beat.
It is United’s 13th FA Cup, one behind Arsenal’s record of 14. And it is Ten Hag’s second trophy in as many years at the club after winning the League Cup last year.
Players and staff embraced him on the field after the final whistle as the Dutchman managed to end a troubled campaign on a high.
Watching on were the United co-owners, Americans Joel and Avram Glazer and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe.
Speculation about Ten Hag’s future dominated the buildup, and it was widely anticipated he would lose his job regardless of the result after overseeing United’s worst league season in 34 years.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the team and winning the cup,” he said before kickoff.
It was a very different story for City. After becoming the first English team to win four titles in a row, they were aiming to set a new benchmark by completing back-to-back doubles. City’s parade in Manchester on Monday to celebrate the historic league success will not include the FA Cup.
City dominated possession in the first half but United posed the more threatening attacks and took the lead through Garnacho.
The Argentine winger sparked panic in City’s defense when chasing onto a hopeful punt from Diogo Dalot deep in his half. Gvardiol was quicker to the ball, but his headed back pass went over the onrushing City goalkeeper Ortega to leave Garnacho with an open net to tap home.
If that goal benefited from luck, United’s second came from a slick attack, with Garnacho at the heart of it again when cutting in from the right wing and playing in Bruno Fernandes.
The United captain hit a first-time no-look pass to Mainoo, who coolly slotted past Ortega.
“It’s been a tough season with ups and downs. This is the only thing we’ve had to look forward to,” Mainoo said. “We knew we had to come together. The preparation for this game has been amazing. We’ve shown we can compete and win games.”


Leclerc claims Monaco pole to end Verstappen’s record sequence

Updated 25 May 2024
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Leclerc claims Monaco pole to end Verstappen’s record sequence

  • It brought Leclerc his third Monaco pole position and ended Verstappen’s run of seven straight poles this year
  • Three-time world champion Verstappen struggled for Red Bull after hitting the barriers on his final fast lap

MONACO: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc snatched pole position at his home Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday, as championship leader Max Verstappen could only finish sixth fastest.
The 26-year-old Monegasque driver, who has never managed a podium finish at his home race, clocked a best lap of one minute and 10.270 seconds to outpace Australian Oscar Piastri of McLaren by 0.154 seconds.
It brought Leclerc his third Monaco pole position and ended Verstappen’s run of seven straight poles this year and a record-equalling eight in succession, shared with three-time champion Ayrton Senna.
Three-time world champion Verstappen struggled for Red Bull after hitting the barriers on his final fast lap.
“It was so nice,” said a relieved Leclerc after a tense and thrilling qualifying.
“I’m really happy about my lap. The excitement was so high, but I know from the past that qualifying is not everything. The win is the target.”
Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz was third ahead of Lando Norris in the second McLaren, Mercedes’ George Russell and Verstappen.
“It was close,” said Piastri. “If you took the second half of my first lap and the first half of my second one it would have been enough for pole!“
Sainz added: “I’ve struggled all weekend with confidence in the car so it’s an improvement. I just wish I was fighting for pole.”
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was seventh in the second Mercedes ahead of RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon of Williams and Pierre Gasly of Alpine.
In near-perfect Riviera conditions with sunshine and temperatures of 48 degrees celsius on the track and 21 in the air, Hamilton led Russell and the rest out of the pits.
As the Mercedes ran two preparatory laps, it was Tsunoda on top for RB before Hamilton took command only for the rapidly-tumbling times to deliver Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg on top, the two Haas drivers retaining their positions until Russell took over.
Leclerc, disappointed by Ferrari’s decision to delay his entry, was 13th before he recorded a fast lap to go top in 1:11.653, a tenth clear of Magnussen and Hulkenberg.
In a fiercely-contested session, Hamilton jumped to second, but Perez was 14th and Norris 18th with only a minute remaining before, in a frantic finish to Q1, the Briton climbed to safety, but Perez was out along with Alonso.
The Mexican was 18th making an early exit for the second year running along with the two-time champion, in his Aston Martin, Williams’ Logan Sargeant, Valtteri Bottas and his Sauber team-mate Zhou Guanyu.
“We’ve struggled all the way through,” said Perez. “It is so tight, the margins I thought I could make the top five.”
Norris was first out for Q2, but Sainz swiftly went quickest ahead of Verstappen in another tight tussle with barely a second separating the top 14 and the Alpines suddenly flying, Gasly claiming a place in Q3 in fifth. “Let’s go, let’s go!” he cried.
Piastri, looking confident, then clocked a 1:10.756 only to be beaten by team-mate Norris as the McLarens took control ahead of Leclerc and Russell before another busy finale saw Esteban Ocon of Alpine, Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo of RB, Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin and Magnussen eliminated.
Sainz was first out for the top ten shootout, followed by Hamilton who clocked 1:10.975, an impressive lap that was blown away immediately by Leclerc in 1:10.418, a lap nine-tenths faster than Verstappen’s pole time last year.
The Dutchman’s first timed lap left him third after losing time in the final sector. “Still the same issues in Turns Five and Ten,” he reported.
As conditions continued to improve, Sainz and Verstappen chose to run again on a traffic-free lap, the rest following.
Hamilton improved to take fourth, but Russell beat him and then Verstappen glanced a barrier before Leclerc improved to 1:10.418 to take a dramatic pole ahead of Piastri, the Italian team’s 250th pole position in Formula One.


Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

Updated 25 May 2024
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Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

  • Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls, but his team failed to build on that and lost 5 wickets for 25 runs
  • Shaheen Shah Afridi took 3-36, as Pakistan try to build on their 2-1 win against Ireland this month

BIRMINGHAM: England captain Jos Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls as the hosts set Pakistan a target of 184 to win the second T20 international at Edgbaston on Saturday.
Buttler was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
England were 144-2 with five overs to spare before Bairstow departed.
But five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back to give the tourists a chance of chasing down the target.
Shaheen Shah Afridi was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
Jofra Archer will form part of the England bowling attack in his first home international appearance since 2020.
Fast bowler Archer has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
However, the 29-year-old’s return could be a timely boost ahead of the T20 World Cup in the United States next month.
“Excited for Jofra, long road for him but looks great and looks fit,” Buttler said before the match.
Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan have been included for Pakistan, who are looking to build on a 2-1 series win over Ireland earlier this month.
The first T20 of the four-match series was washed out on Wednesday.
England: 1 Jos Buttler (capt/wk), 2 Phil Salt, 3 Will Jacks, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Liam Livingstone, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Reece Topley
Pakistan: 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Saim Ayub, 3 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Shadab Khan, 6 Azam Khan, 7 Iftikhar Ahmed, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Amir