SINGAPORE - Donning Team Singapore's jersey at the SEA Games in the Philippines last December is a memory that e-sports player Stefan "Soul" Chong will cherish as he logs off for good after competing in his final tournament next year.
Chong, 25, was part of the Mobile Legends team who competed in e-sports' debut at the regional Games, where they finished third in their group and did not qualify for the next round.
Mobile Legends is a mobile multi-player online battle arena game in which two opposing teams battle to destroy the enemy's base while defending their own base for control of a path, which connects the bases.
"The SEA Games is a prestigious event for athletes and I never thought that I could be part of the SEA Games as an athlete for Singapore. It's kind of a dream come true to wear the Team Singapore jersey," said the captain of the team Evos SG.
Having graduated from the Singapore Institute of Technology last month, Chong is ready to call time on his three-year professional e-sports career after playing his final tournaments: the Nov 27-Dec 6 Mobile Legends Professional League Invitational and the M2 World Championship next year.
Chong, who is planning to look for a job, said: "I have mixed feelings. I'm looking forward to my career (outside of e-sports), but it's quite sad to leave the scene knowing that I've built up a strong fan base and won't be able to see the friends I've made in the game as often."
He is not expecting things to be easy at the league invitational with powerhouses Indonesia and the Philippines featuring in the year-end competition, which is his biggest tournament this season.
The Mobile Legends Professional League Invitational is organised by One Esports, the game's developer Moonton, and Indonesia's Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.
Twenty teams from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Philippines will compete for a prize pool of US$100,000 (S$134,900).
Chong's Evos SG and Resurgence are the two teams from Singapore that will be participating in the tournament.
Carlos Alimurung, chief executive officer of One Esports, said: "I'm proud of how the One Esports and Moonton relationship has blossomed to now include this unique competition, which, for the first time, will enable the best teams from each of the four Mobile Legends Professional Leagues to compete in an online tournament."
With the curtains set to come down on his career, Chong is hopeful that e-sports will eventually be seen in the same light as traditional sports so that more talented players will be given opportunities to excel.
He said: "Maybe because of our appearance, maybe we do not look athletic, and there's that social stigma that we are just playing games.
"I hope for that to go away in the near future and if there's enough support, we can actually have promising talents that could go into e-sports and make Singapore proud with proper training."