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(File pix) Mohamad Nor Haikal Mohamad Noh (left) and Muhammad Khairul Abdul Aziz (right) after signing a two-year contract with MSC Thailand in Bangkok recently. Pix courtesy of NST Reader

KUALA LUMPUR: For Muhammad Khairul Abdul Aziz and Mohamad Nor Haikal Mohamad Noh a nine-to-five job just wasn’t their cup of tea.

Their minds are all synched to the world of eSports.

Although the career as a professional gamer was not well received by their parents initially, they have made something of themselves in eSports.

Khairul and Haikal have created history as the first Malaysians to compete in eSports at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia where they finished in the top-four of the Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) event.

“In the beginning my mum (Azizah Ibarahim), didn’t agree with this because to her it’s a waste of time but when I started winning and bringing home money, she thought okay, maybe it’s not a waste of time,” said 24-year-old Khairul.

Khairul and Haikal are now happy with what they are doing — as fulltime players for Thai team, MSC, playing under their football club, Port FC under EA’s title PES 2018.

“We’ve been in Thailand for about three weeks now. We are paid fulltime athletes and we’ve signed a two-year contract with the team,” said Khairul

“The team will determine who plays against who. And we do a lot of training. Despite it sounding simple, it isn’t because the tricks that these players use always defer from whatever we have seen previously,” said Khairul who has won numerous PES competitions in Malaysia.

Haikal, 20, believes this is just the beginning for them and for the sport following the RM10 million allocated for eSports by the government under Budget 2019.

“eSports should be given the recognition it deserves because it’s got huge potential among the youngsters,” he said.

“Look at us, we qualified for the Asian Games. The budget should be well utilised to ensure the eSports community keeps growing.”

Khairul added: “Malaysia needs to expand the talent pool not only in terms of athletes but also the development of video games for foreign market. This is the best step in ensuring Malaysia becomes an eSports hub in Asean.”

Considering themselves as Malaysia’s eSports success stories, Khairul and Haikal have urged the community to shed the negative perception about video games and not consider it “a waste of time” but rather an untapped field of great resources.

“The support I gained from my mum, friends and relatives to continue in this field has spurred me to make a career out of it, and now I can call myself an eSports professional athlete.

“We are not playing for fun but have turned it into a career, earning monthly salary from MSC in Thailand.”

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