Singaporean e-sports player Figo Chua has been granted a deferment from entering the National Service (NS), freeing him up to compete in an international tournament later this year, a team spokesperson has said on Facebook.

The fourth edition of the Overwatch World Cup is set to take place on Nov. 1 in Anaheim, California, in conjunction with an annual convention hosted by US video game developer Blizzard Entertainment.

Chua, who also goes by his e-sports nickname Azalea, is one of the Overwatch Singapore team’s top choices to represent them in the competition, team spokesperson Nicholas Tay said in a public post on Sunday.

That looked all but impossible, as Chua was scheduled to enter NS, which is compulsory for all Singaporean men aged 18, on Aug. 14, which would have forced the team to pick a replacement.

Chua decided to apply for a deferment with the Central Manpower Base (CMPB), which manages NS enlistments. With less than three weeks remaining, Chua received news last Friday that his deferment was successful, Tay said.

That application wasn’t specifically for the esports tourney though. In a follow-up post yesterday, Tay felt compelled to clarify that Chua’s application to defer NS had been based largely on a request to first complete his tertiary education — though he thinks the esports situation likely helped his case.

“Azalea was granted his deferment to complete his tertiary education, and was NOT granted a special deferment purely for esports,” Tay wrote. “We helped him out (in the application) by providing him with official endorsement letters from our Competition Committee and Blizzard as supporting documentation.

“With less than three weeks remaining to his enlistment, such requests would normally be rejected, but I believe they took the Overwatch World Cup into consideration to grant him the deferment.”

The Ministry of Defence later confirmed on its website that the deferment was granted because Chua wanted to enroll in a course at the Institute of Technical Education in January next year.

Chua will head to the US on Oct. 28 with six other Singaporeans Timotheus Yeo (Bubblekitty), Jasper Yue (yuris), Mohammed Asri (Sachokk), Muhammad Syafiq (Xenofly), Alston How (Jervyz) and Hao Haiyang (ZeonFlux).

According to the Overwatch World Cup website, teams representing their respective countries are expected to compete via online gaming or rather, “fight as one unit, rallied under their national flag.”

South Korea’s team has been the reigning champion for the last three years. Last year, China came in second and Canada took up third place.

A rare opportunity

National Service deferments for reasons other than educational pursuits are rare in Singapore.

Olympic swimmer Joseph Schooling was a well-known case of a Singaporean who was granted NS deferment. He was deferred from 2013 to 2016 before he was given an extension until after the 2020 Olympics ends, The Straits Times reported.

The extension came after Schooling won a gold medal for Singapore in the event in 2016, beating American champion Michael Phelps.

Meanwhile, footballer Ben Davis was not so lucky. The 17-year-old had signed a two-year contract to play with the Fulham Football Club in the UK. But his deferment application was rejected as there was “no indication, commitment or plans” as to how Davis would “help football standards in Singapore” if he had delayed serving NS, defense minister Ng Eng Hen had said in parliament, reported Channel NewsAsia. 

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