eSports surging at electrifying pace in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: There has been much buzz and debate on whether eSports should be officially categorised as a sport, but it is increasingly clear that eSports is gaining recognition as a significant sporting activity on a global scale.

Beyond its status as a global multibillion-dollar industry, eSports has also surged into the realm of multi-sport Games, earning recognition as a medal sport.

This trend is evident in Malaysia as well, where the government has been actively endorsing eSports, and has even included it in the Sports Development Act 1997, underscoring the growing acknowledgment of eSports as a significant part of the sports landscape in the country.

Notably, the Youth and Sports Ministry has shown strong support by organising a send-off ceremony for two Malaysian teams — HomeBois and Team SMG — to the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang M5 World Championship, commonly known as the M5 World Championship, in Manila from Dec 2-17.

Remarkably, the ceremony on Monday took place at the Parliament!

eSports has also been a consistent medal contributor for Malaysia at multi-sport Games, winning 11 medals: one gold, three silver, and seven bronze total from all the recent three Sea Games - in the Philippines (1-0-1), Vietnam (0-0-3), and Cambodia (0-2-2), as well as the Hangzhou Asian Games (0-1-1).


Former world No. 1 doubles shuttler Tan Boon Heong opined that eSports players deserve to be called "athletes", and he won't be surprised if  eSports is included in the Olympics in the near future as an official sport.

"There isn't much difference between  eSports athletes and traditional sports athletes. To become a world champion, the eSports athletes need to train just as hard, isn't it? There's no easy way to be the best of the best," said Boon Heong, who used to form a deadly partnership with Koo Kien Keat.

"Also, eSports competitors need to be strong mentally just like us in traditional sports. In fact, I would think that these gamers require a much higher focus because there's simply no room for complacency.

"But again, it really depends on individuals whether you're accepting eSports as a sport. There's no right or wrong. For me, I'm fine with it.

"eSports is being played in almost every part of the world. I won't be surprised if eSports is  eventually included in the Olympics."

Boon Heong has thrown his support behind eSports by joining the "Kembara MLBB YuZhong" campaign, held in conjunction with the M5 World Championship.

Traditional sports figures, including national women's badminton doubles ace, Pearly Tan, and two-time Paralympic long jump gold medallist Datuk Abdul Latif Romly, are also contributing their star power to bridge the gap between traditional sports and eSports.


Boon Heong and Latif are set to make a much anticipated appearance alongside eSports athletes from Selangor Red Giants, one of Malaysia's biggest professional MLBB teams, backed by Selangor Football Club, during the finale of the "Kembara MLBB YuZhong" tour at the Central Market main entrance on Dec 2. The public can participate in the tour for free.

The "Kembara MLBB YuZhong" tour has made two stops to date in Penang (Nov 11), Johor (Nov 18) and the M5 Wild Card arena at JioSpace in two separate locations in the Klang Valley on Nov 25-26.

The tour, which spans over four weeks, also included other cities such as Ipoh, Melaka, and various universities.

The objective of the tour is to create awareness of the similarities between both fields, interact with fans and demonstrate that eSports is just as competitive, and physically and mentally demanding as traditional sports.

The overarching goal is to emphasise that whether engaging in traditional sports or eSports, both sets of athletes adhere to strict training regimens and compete with the shared aim of bringing glory to Malaysia.

Other gaming key opinion leaders (KOLs) are also set to be present, and they include MPL Malaysia host Poetryofroses, professional eSports athlete Garyy of Team HAQ, Ismulcomle, MamaJess, Achai, and Lithara.

Fikri Rizal Mahruddin, Marketing and Business Development Lead for MPL Malaysia at the MOONTON Games, said: "eSports is a dynamic realm where skill, teamwork, and strategy converge – not unlike traditional sports. The primary difference would be that one thrives in a digital landscape, while the other takes place in physical arenas.


"Our 'Kembara MLBB YuZhong' activation is a fusion of both eSports and traditional sports, such as badminton and track and field, to illuminate a new era where athleticism is enjoyed in its purest form – a celebration of excellence, passion, and the universal language of competition."

The Dec 2 fans activation programme will also encourage Malaysians to rally behind HomeBois and Team SMG as they aim to bring the "pantang mengalah" (never give up, never quit) spirit to the international stage for glory at the 16-team M5 World Championship, which offers a lucrative prize of US$900,000 (RM4.2mil).

HomeBois qualified by virtue of being the MPL Malaysia Season 12 champions while Team SMG boosted Malaysia's representation after winning one of the two slots offered through last week's M5 Wildcard Qualifiers in Petaling Jaya.

In the M4 World Championship in Jakarta in January, Team HAQ and TODAK represented Malaysia and finished in the 9th-12th brackets.

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