By Sabeel Hazir
“Real talent shines through regardless of how many others there are around you.” Paloma Faith
Imagine for a moment, you have just arrived at a venue far from home for a tournament as a relatively unknown participant. Whatever the competition is, you have trained for this your whole life and are now about to attempt to prove yourself against the best in the world. You have had a long and arduous journey due to visa issues and flight changes, not a warm meal in your belly over the last 2 days or a decent night’s sleep.
Regardless, your hunger to win is the only hunger gnawing at your sanity. You sate your appetite the only way you can, by winning the aforementioned tournament.
Now imagine after all of that, your win does not validate you as the best but rather you are considered to be a strong competitor who was merely underestimated, no way you can repeat that feat. That is the true story of Arslan Ash, a young man from Pakistan who had just won the Tekken 7 crown at Evo Japan 2019.
For those unfamiliar with the tournament, it is the biggest tournament in Asia for fighting video games. The best players in Asia, some of whom are considered the best in the world, compete at this event. Tekken 7 is part of the Tekken franchise, the second highest-grossing fighting game franchise of all time behind Street Fighter.
In his quest for glory, he bested a host of world-renowned players but most famously beat a South Korean player called “KNEE”, a man who through his own exploits in Tekken has put himself at the forefront of the debate to be the greatest player of all time.
The most interesting part, Asrlan has bested KNEE before. Pakistan was now on the fighting game map, with many top Tekken players expressing a desire to visit Pakistan and train after Arslan revealed that there is a Tekken 7 community in his home nation. Unfortunately, most due to financial circumstances or visa issues cannot travel outside of Pakistan to compete in these tournaments.
Back to the story at hand however, Arslan was not through yet. Which brings us to the last 48 hours, which brings us to the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, which brings us to Evo Las Vegas 2019. Surely, the Pakistani upstart would not put in a repeat performance and wouldn’t make it out of the top 8.
He won. Not one match, not two, but the whole thing. The man who was treated as a usurper after his victory in Japan, has this time upset the odds to have the crown gently bestowed upon his head like the rightful king he is as he soaked up the fanfare of the shocked Las Vegas crowd.
The cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake? He beat KNEE in the grand final to be crowned best in the world and in his now typical humble fashion the world’s best player said he is not even the greatest Pakistani player.
Now if we were to look at his victories and style of play technically, it would also be very unique. He plays with a character known as Kazumi, who has only been introduced in Tekken 7. His patient build-up, his ability to punish using confirm hit combos, the way he uses Kazumis gliding ability to mix up his high and low hits, being a lifelong Tekken fan I could sit here and analyze every matchup that is available on the internet but I shall go down a different route.
I would like to look at his victory as the embodiment of the Pakistani spirit. He was never given a chance to win, see Pakistan winning the ICC champions trophy in 2017. He built his name in a world where nobody even knew players came from Pakistan, see any international event ever that a Pakistani has won. Unlike our cricket team, however, his nature is anything but mercurial. He showed great consistency over a number of months to win major tournaments and establish himself as the true world number one. He was not supposed to win but he did, Arslan Ash from Pakistan is the best Tekken 7 player in the world.