SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has clarified that e-sports player Figo Chua was not granted deferment from national service (NS) to take part in an international competition.
A Mindef spokesman said the basis for Mr Chua's deferment from NS was not for participation in the Overwatch World Cup, but to pursue a course in the Institute of Technical Education instead.
"He was granted deferment to enrol for a Nitec course in January 2020," the spokesman explained.
"Under current policy, deferment from full-time NS is generally granted to enlistees to pursue educational qualifications up to A levels, polytechnic diploma or their equivalent, including the Nitec."
A check by ST showed that the last time an e-sports player received a deferment from NS was in 2005, when Stanley Aw, then 20, was granted one to play CounterStrike at the World Cyber Games.
In 2013, swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen were granted deferments to train for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
The move paid off when Schooling won the 100m butterfly event and took home Singapore's first Olympic gold medal.
The duo have since had the deferments extended for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
Mr Chua, 18, who goes by the moniker Azalea, was announced on Sunday (Aug 4) as a member of the Singapore team that will represent the country at the tournament in Anaheim, California from Oct 31 to Nov 2.
Overwatch is a team-based shooter game, with two teams of six players battling as different characters, each with their own powerful abilities.
This year, the annual Overwatch World Cup is into its fourth edition, with dozens of countries competing including powerhouses United States, China and defending champions South Korea.
Mr Chua had made the shortlist for the team, explained Mr Nicholas Tay, who is in charge of managing social media and community outreach for the team, but was replaced when the Singapore Overwatch World Cup Committee realised it had overlooked his enlistment date.
He was initially due to enlist on Aug 14, which meant he would not have been able to go for the competition.
"But I didn't want to give up without trying," Mr Chua told ST.
He called the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) on July 29 to apply for a deferment, and went down to Depot Road two days later to submit supporting documents, including endorsement letters from the Singapore Overwatch World Cup Committee and the tournament organisers.
Last Friday, he was contacted by CMPB to ask if he intended to pursue further studies. Mr Chua subsequently informed CMPB he would apply for deferment to enrol for a Nitec course.
Mr Tay also said a CMPB officer had confirmed with him over the phone on Tuesday that "the competition was a factor in granting him (Mr Chua) the deferment", although the official reason is for education.
Mr Tay said the Singapore Overwatch World Cup Committee hopes that the players on the team can benefit from the exposure and experience.
He said that players have been picked for professional e-sports leagues after taking part in such major competitions.
"We do our best every step of the way so we can be satisfied with the results no matter what happens."
Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.