COMMENT: Singapore missed its best opportunity to win esports gold at the Asian Games

It could have been the first esports gold at the Asian Games for Singapore, but alas, says contributing editor Aloysius Low.

Volunteers watch the live stream of the Street Fighter V: Champion Edition final esports event during the Asian Games in Hangzhou. (Photo: AFP)
Volunteers watch the live stream of the Street Fighter V: Champion Edition final esports event during the Asian Games in Hangzhou. (Photo: AFP)

If you have a world champion, and that world champion actually qualified to participate in an internationally recognised tournament, you would send him to represent your country… right?

So it completely boggles my mind that Ho Kun Xian, better known as Xian, wasn't selected to represent Singapore at the 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou for Street Fighter V, a game that he excels in and has won titles with.

Alongside Brandon "Brandon" Chia, Xian made it through local qualifiers. However, as we all know by now, qualifying doesn't mean you will get selected, because the final decision still lies with the Singapore National Olympics Council. And Xian wasn't selected, but Brandon was.

According to my sources, no reasons were given for him being left out, which seems like a reflection of how transparent the selection process is.

And, unlike the previous esports nominees for the Hanoi SEA Games, who were reportedly told that "their chances of getting a medal were low", this obviously can't be the case here.

(Photo: Xian)
(Photo: Xian)

After all, Xian easily fulfils the criteria that was set out by the committee.

Xian is a world champion. He's won a multitude of titles, including the world's biggest fighting games tournament of them all, the Evolution Championship Series in 2013.

He's carried the Singapore flag high at each event he attends. He's always humble, non-controversial, and most importantly, a well-respected figure in the community for his willingness to teach and give back.

In short, he's easily a great example to the sporting youth of the country.

So you can't say denying him a spot would be like denying a place to long distance runner Soh Rui Yong, who has previously exchanged strong words with the SNOC.

Not sending Xian hurt Brandon's chances too

Furthermore, sending two players instead of one to Hangzhou would have bettered our chances.

Brandon, who finished in 9-12th, is a great player in his own right, but I would argue that not having Xian there to bounce off ideas, to give advice, or just to help motivate each other was detrimental to his play.

He had to contend solo against 12 other countries who had sent a pair.

And mind you, it's not just the powerhouses of Japan or Taiwan that sent two players.

Even Tajikistan, a country with a GDP of US$47 billion, could afford to send two. Singapore, a country with 16 times Tajikstan's GDP, couldn't similarly send two players to compete for national glory?

And this is in spite of the claim that we've sent our biggest contingent to the Asian Games. So really, we couldn't send just one more?

The top three medallists were from teams that sent two players: South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (competing under Chinese Taipei).

Is Singapore serious about esports?

If esports is to be something that we're serious about, and no, I don't count us hosting the dismal Olympic Esports Week as being serious about esports, then maybe the SNOC can look beyond their short-sightedness and start making the right decisions.

The SNOC is due for a leadership change because of the resignation of Tan Chuan-Jin, who also stepped down from his political roles over his affair with Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui.

Perhaps it's high time our sports bodies did a leadership refresh, too, and have current members step aside.

If Singapore is to ever succeed in esports, it needs leadership who understands it, and not treat it as a showcase of electronic sports (and sometimes not even good ones, at that).

Otherwise, we may as well continue treading the same unsuccessful path – just like our 2010 World Cup dreams.

Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at Views expressed are his own.

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