SINGAPORE - Singapore Premier League (SPL) leaders Tampines Rovers proved they are equally formidable in the virtual world as Stags duo Joel Chew and Haziq Mikhail won the inaugural eSPL tournament on Sunday (July 19).
In a best-of-five final format in eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer (eFootball PES) 2020, the Tampines duo came back from a 3-1 loss to beat Lion City Sailors' Zulqarnaen Suzliman and Iqram Rifqi with 4-0, 4-1 and 2-0 wins.
Eight local-based teams each sent two players to play in the event held over two weekends. The Stags had to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat by Geylang International in the group stage to squeeze into the semi-final, where they beat Albirex Niigata 2-1 and 3-0 in a best-of-three format.
Chew, who had also recently won the Fifa20 Stay and Play Asian Series in April, said: "It really feels great to help Tampines Rovers be crowned as the first-ever eSPL champions, and it is always nice to win something.
"I think that the level of competition here was pretty good. Haziq and I did not expect to win the tournament at all because we were not familiar with ProEvolution Soccer, but belief is one's greatest strength, and I am glad we had it in us to eventually clinch the trophy."
Haziq added: "Honestly, neither I nor Joel expected to even qualify for the final, much less to win it. Qualifying for the semis was also a surprise after we lost and drew our first two games respectively. However, I am just delighted to contribute some kind of silverware to the club even though it is on the virtual pitch this time."
Mini tournaments also took place alongside the official eSPL tournament as national player Lutfiah Hannah won the women's tournament after beating team-mate Raudhah Kamis 4-1 in the final. In a celebrity match, Lion City Sailors' Abdil Qaiyyim and Gabriel Quak beat SGAG's Xiao Ming and Calvin Singh 1-0.
Streamed on the SPL Facebook page, the eSPL represents the first foray into esports by the Football Association of Singapore and reached over 740,000 people and generated over 154,000 views on social media.
The tournament was also telecast by local broadcasters and regional networks in Australia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.