Zaid Afsar: The journey of an eSports athlete from a small town
‘Keep grinding, never lose hope, big things need more time’
The Tech Panda delves into the inspiring journey of an Indian eSports athlete aiming big against Pakistan and Nepal at the World Esports Cup 2021.
It’s the story of a small town boy with big dreams. Hailing from Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Zaid Afsar lost his father at a young age and grew up with his mother. Though a rough start for him, Afsar’s resilience ensured he not only played tournaments with his slow and low end mobile phone but won them too.
Read more: PCs Out Mobiles in for Esports in 2021
Today, Afsar and his team Black Flag Army play pro and are set to represent india in world eSports.
The Tech Panda asked him about his experiences and aspirations as a pro gamer in India, who says the best things about being a pro gamer is the respect he sees in the eyes of the younger generation.
When I talk to the young generation or underdog players and they respect us as gamers and they learn from us, that’s the best thing I feel about being a pro gamer
“As a professional gamer, the first thing that comes to mind is expectations of the young generation from us, when I talk to the young generation or underdog players and they respect us as gamers and they learn from us, that’s the best thing I feel about being a pro gamer,” he says.
“In the next year, I’ll focus to represent india in world eSports cup and grind more,” he adds.
From a Slow Mobile Phone to a High-end Smartphone
Afsar, who is currently pursuing a degree in BCom, first came across video games in 2018, when he played games casually for fun with friends and classmates on mobile phones. It was around this time that he came across the Free Fire tournament on YouTube.
He soon understood the nuances of the game and started participating in tournaments. While bad network and lag plagued him, it didn’t stop his commitment toward becoming an eSports player. In a span of six months, he managed to win INR35,000 in prize money from various online tournaments and was finally able to buy a high end smartphone for his matches.
As well as I belong to a rural area, so I have faced much networking problems as well as device problems. But yes, more the struggle more the success
He recalls the challenges and problems he had to overcome to make it as a pro gamer, especially from a small town.
“For sure there were many problems in the beginning as I am a student, it was hard for me to manage time. As well as I belong to a rural area, so I have faced much networking problems as well as device problems. But yes, more the struggle more the success,” he says confidently.
Convincing Indian Parents
Where Indian eSports is proliferating it’s yet to catch on with Indian parents, who aren’t quite ready to let their children choose gaming as a profession.
Afsar too had a tough time. With irregular income and financial challenges at home, he had to always convince his mother and buy more time to prove his abilities in gaming.
Indian parents are not much aware about gaming communities such as eSports, but for sure in the future they will know the potential of this community and they will definitely support gaming
“In the present time, Indian parents are not much aware about gaming communities such as eSports, but for sure in the future they will know the potential of this community and they will definitely support gaming but as a gamer as well as a student, gamers should equally focus on both studies and esports,” he says.
In recent years, after Afsar started earning handsomely and everything seemed fine in life is when a huge setback struck him. Ahead of the pandemic, he had shifted to emulato,r but things changed drastically when emulators got banned in February 2020. There were no matches and his team disbanded. Everything came to a standstill along with his earnings.
It came to a point where he mentally decided to quit gaming and start working in his home town but as fate would have it, he came across some quality gamers online and restarted his eSports career with a brand new team, Black Flag Army.
For me my teammates are my mentors
As a team, their first official tournament was Free Fire City Open, where they finished second in state qualifiers and third in the finals, just one point short of second place. The team’s name is dedicated to his online mentor, who he is yet to meet physically.
At the grand finale of the inaugural edition of South East Asia’s tri-nation eSports tournament, World Esports Cup (WEC ’21), the team showed great spirit.
Afsar is grateful to his team for guiding him.
“My team is a mentor for me, especially Awara Bhai (Black Flag Army) Lalit BHAI, Sultan bhai, as I have learned many things from them like teamwork also all of them have helped me a lot in my bad times. So yes, for me my teammates are my mentors,” he says.
India Vs. International Esports
With countries like the US, China, Canada, and other European countries leaps ahead it’s difficult to see Indian eSports tackle international tournaments. However, Afsar says, there is a lot of potential.
“If we are talking about the Indian eSports community, it’s growing really fast, but we have to work hard for further success on the world stage. I’m sure that very soon we will achieve that as well,” he says.
The Indian eSports community, it’s growing really fast, but we have to work hard for further success on the world stage
But how serious are Indian youth about going pro in esports? Or is gaming still mostly a pastime?
According to Afsar, while most of the population of Free Fire actually play game for entertainment, there are a few uncut gems.
“Yes, I have seen many underdog teams playing really good, which means many players are also taking gaming as a career,” he says.
His advice for aspiring pro gamers of India is to never give up.
“First and foremost, make sure you practice with your team as much as possible, and keep grinding never lose hope, big things need more time,” he says.