HANOI - Growing up, Daryl Ng's life revolved around two passions: football and gaming.
In between his part-time work at an ice cream shop and school, he would visit LAN shops with his friends to play different games like Dota 1 and Counter-Strike 1.6.
But football remained his first love and Ng, who played for his schools' teams and grew up following the English Premier League, harboured hopes of making a career in the sport.
That dream soon fizzled out after he completed his O-levels because he doubted his abilities and was unsure of how to progress from there.
The 27-year-old said: "My focus was still soccer, but only after O-levels I realised I couldn't really go anywhere with my soccer route, like where do I go now? Do I go and join a football club? Do I go for a trial somewhere, which I didn't, so my friends and I continued working and playing games."
As football took a backseat, Ng started playing games more competitively while he was a student at Nanyang Polytechnic's (NYP) School of Information Technology.
When he was 18, he was given the opportunity to play in a professional team in Malaysia, but Ng, then a Singapore permanent resident who held Chinese citizenship, had trouble obtaining a visa.
It was around the same time that National Service (NS) came calling and he decided not to take up the offer.
This was when Ng started to dabble in games of different genres and realised that he was able to grasp games fast and do well in them. At local competitions, he would come in among top three and that set him on the path to an e-sports career.
But it was not a decision that was immediately accepted by those around him, with friends and family worried about his prospects.
Ng had dropped out of NYP in his second year as he struggled with his studies and uncertainty over what he wanted to do in the future. At the time, he was also working to pay his school fees.
"They thought I was crazy. Because for a school dropout like me, your prospects are out of the window then you say you want to do gaming as a career. There were a lot of doubts and a lot of people thought this wouldn't be viable," said Ng, who had tried working in sales for a few months, but ultimately decided to pursue his goal of making a career out of e-sports.
"The thing is, you really need to be at the top of the top to consider pursuing it. I'd saved up enough so I just went all in and see where it brought me."
He then approached Singapore's Cybersports & Online Gaming Association (Scoga), which happened to be looking for people to teach classes, which kickstarted his journey of coaching in e-sports.
Ng was mainly taking up contract-based coaching jobs and last year, he was offered the opportunity to coach Scoga's academy team Explorer, who were competing in the inaugural Mobile: Legends Bang Bang Professional League (MPL) Singapore.
The launch of MPL Singapore meant that there were separate competitions for the top MLBB teams from Singapore and Malaysia, who previously competed in a competition called MPL MYSG.
He led the team to a fifth/sixth finish in the play-offs of the competition and later was approached by champions EVOS SG, who offered him the role of head coach in their team.
That was around the same time that he found out Mobile Legends would be contested at the next edition of the SEA Games in Hanoi.
That was when Ng finally decided to apply for Singapore citizenship, after putting it off for a while despite earlier requests from his parents.
He had held on to his Chinese passport as he considered taking his e-sports career overseas, but realised that he wanted to represent Singapore and help the local landscape grow.
Since he joined EVOS SG, Ng has led them to win another MPL SG title and a fourth-place finish at last year's Mobile Legends M3 World Championship.
Now, he will be part of the Mobile Legends team that will be competing at the SEA Games in Hanoi, where he will take up more of a coach's role.
"Representing the country is a badge of honour for anyone," he said. "If you told me 10 years ago that I stood a chance - because for me, I've made so many mistakes in life and I thought my e-sports career might not ever be a thing. And to look back at the end of the day and say that I actually represented Singapore gives me a sigh of relief that everything I've done has led to me representing the country.
"In turn what I can do for Singapore e-sports in the future will be a very big thing for me in the years to come and this is basically a form of validation that I ultimately made the right choice in my path and what I can do from here, which is to really push up the level of e-sports in the future with proper coaching and support."