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India’s esports athletes push for sport’s recognition

Esports is getting more recognition each year. India is one of the countries where such a scene thrives well. After it was confirmed that esports would debut in the 2022 Asian Games, athletes and key industry players in India are pushing for it to be recognized as a proper sport.

India’s Tirth Mehta won the bronze medal for Blizzard Entertainment’s hit card game Hearthstone in the 2018 Asian Games when esports was a demon category. The win inspired fellow athletes to push the country to recognize it, citing that the move could provide a strong grassroots esports structure.

The campaign

Aside from the Asian Games, its European counterpart, the Commonwealth Games, has also announced that esports can be included in the upcoming Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games. The category had an inaugural pilot run in Birmingham this year.

In Birmingham, India’s DOTA 2 team defeated New Zealand 2-0 in the bronze medal playoff, which was played in a best-of-three format. Team captain Moin “NO_Chanc3” Ejaz said the win was a culmination of years of hard work. He said he had high hopes that the country’s esports scene would be more developed in the future.

“This win symbolises the amount of hard work the team has put in over the years and we dedicate this win to our country. Winning a medal at the Commonwealth was a dream for us and we’re super proud as a team,” Ejaz said on August 8.

“We hope that this win will encourage more tournaments around Dota 2 and other esports titles, which will help the ecosystem as a whole to grow in our country.”

Esports Federation of India director and Asian Esports Federation VP Lokesh Suji said that after the milestones, it was time for the country to recognize the sport.

“With the medal wins at Asian Games 2018 & now at Commonwealth Esports Championship, the time has come to recognize esports as a sport,” Suji explained.

“The potential of Indian esports and our athletes cannot be ignored and its recognition becomes more critical before the Asian Games 2022 (scheduled next year), this will open up doors for investments & opportunities which will lead to training & skill development of our athletes.”

India’s FIFA 2022 player Charanjot Singh, who will be representing the country in the 2022 Asian Games, said it was important for India to recognize esports as it would promote growth for the industry in the country.

“Recognising esports as a sport will help a lot. This can lead to esports having a proper framework, facilities and opportunities for everyone. This will automatically lead to the growth of the Esports industry as well. More athletes would want to join in and want to represent the country at global stages,” Singh said.

Street Fighter V athlete Mayank Prajapati added that recognizing esports would also in setting a direct economic impact on players and their families.

“It will definitely help the players get more exposure and all the support players need from the government and from their family itself. Getting the right infrastructure and hardware is one of the most important aspects of preparing for the Asian Games,” Prajapati said.