SINGAPORE: E-sports athlete Figo Chua will play in an international tournament after being granted deferment from National Service (NS), but the deferment was not specifically for the tournament, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) clarified on Wednesday (Aug 7).
“The basis for Mr Figo ‘Azalea’ Chua’s deferment from full-time NS was not for participation in the Overwatch World Cup, as reported,” the ministry said in a statement to CNA.
Media articles have said that Chua, 18, was given a deferment to take part in the Overwatch World Cup 2019, which is taking place in November. He was due to enlist on Aug 14, according to a post on the Overwatch Singapore Facebook page.
Overwatch is a team-based first-person shooter game created by Blizzard Entertainment.
Chua was granted deferment to enrol for a NITEC course in January 2020, MINDEF said.
“Under current policy, deferment from full-time NS is generally granted to enlistees to pursue educational qualifications up to ‘A’ Levels, polytechnic diploma or their equivalent, including the NITEC,” the statement said.
Overwatch Singapore also clarified on its Facebook page on Tuesday, two days after its initial announcement, that the deferment was not to take part in the e-sports competition but for “tertiary education”.
But the post also stated: “The Overwatch World Cup was likely a factor in CMPB’s decision to be lenient in allowing him to defer with less than three weeks remaining, but it was not the sole reason.”
CMPB refers to the Central Manpower Base, which manages the enlistment of servicemen.
FEW DEFERMENTS FOR SPORTS
Mr Nicholas Tay, who is the community lead for the Overwatch Singapore team, also suggested in the Facebook post that “getting a deferment from National Service for esports-related reasons is practically unheard of”.
This was why they had asked a backup player to stand in for Chua in the event that he had to serve NS in August.
Special deferments for sports competitions are unusual and rarely granted.
Last year, footballer Ben Davis’ application to defer his NS enlistment was denied. The teen, who had signed with English Premier League club Fulham, was the first Singaporean to sign a professional contract with a top-tier English club.
READ: Footballer Ben Davis has defaulted on NS obligations: MINDEF
MINDEF said then that “very few applications have been approved over the years and based on criteria which are made known to the public. In sports, deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore. In the last 15 years, only three have met this criteria”.
Swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, and sailor Maximilian Soh, were previously given deferments to train for and compete in the Olympics.