Cambodian E-sports Makes History With ASEAN Para Games Debut

The Cambodian team of e-sports players are prepping hard ahead of the 12th ASEAN Para Games, which will host the event for the first time in the Games’ history
The Cambodian e-sport team is currently training and eagerly awaiting the competition day. Kiripost/Siv Channa
The Cambodian e-sport team is currently training and eagerly awaiting the competition day. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Cambodian e-sport players were excited when e-sports was included for the very first time in the 12th ASEAN Para Game 2023 in Cambodia as the host country.

Cambodia ASEAN Para Games Organising Committee (CAMAPGOC) and Team Two Co., Ltd (Team Two) agreed to include e-sports in the forthcoming Para Games, according to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in December.

Cambodia requested the inclusion of e-sports in the 12th ASEAN Para Game to create a video game competition among ASEAN members, aiming to win Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals. The inclusion of e-sports is a significant accomplishment for Cambodia, as it becomes the first country to introduce the event to the ASEAN Para Games.

This marks a watershed moment for e-sports players, who are finally being recognised and given a chance to prove themselves. The Cambodian e-sport team is currently training and eagerly awaiting the competition day, approaching it with confidence and commitment to meet competitors from ASEAN countries. 

The team members are urging the E-Sports Federation Cambodia to organise more competitions. Kiripost/Siv Channa
The team members are urging the E-Sports Federation Cambodia to organise more competitions. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Keo Phoksambo, also known as KAKA42, was born in Phnom Penh and is the e-sport coach. He said, "I used to be the coach of the e-sport women's team (DG Angelz) on the road to the 32nd SEA Games. They were only able to join the last four groups and were not selected for the 32nd SEA Games. Now, I have another chance to be a coach of Mobile Legend with Cambodian e-sport players in the 12th ASEAN Para Game."

He added that before, he was a streamer, analysing gamers. He was also a gaming video creator, but has now become an e-sport caster. This is a fresh start with the Mobile Legend as a coach because, before, he only played to reduce stress and did not pay much attention to techniques and strategies. However, now he realises that e-sports involves critical thinking.

The players were initially hesitant as they were accustomed to playing solo to relieve stress and for fun, without participating in team play or competitions. Therefore, Phoksambo had to organise them and establish a structure by understanding their behaviour, inquiring about their experience playing Mobile Legend, identifying their preferred and skilled roles, and then dividing them into different roles to boost their confidence as a team that supports each other, he shared this during an interview this week with Kiripost.

He expressed his excitement about being a coach for the 12th ASEAN Para Games, as it provides an opportunity to share experiences and knowledge with athletes. Furthermore, it offers athletes with disabilities the chance to showcase their abilities on an international stage, and he is particularly proud to represent his nation.

Team captain, Uk Viraksatya, 24, said,

"I am different from others as the first time I played Mobile Legend was only for fun and making friends in the game. I started playing during the Covid-19 pandemic after finishing my school assignments."

He explained that he chose to be the team's captain, or Roamer, in the game, responsible for monitoring the map and keeping watch over the surroundings. The Roamer opens the map to help the allied team avoid ambushes and keep track of the opponent's location. Support heroes in Mobile Legends play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of the Carry and the team. Additionally, the support role involves opening folders and other tasks.

He further elaborated that the Roamer acts as a barrier against enemies before ganging. When the opposing team is about to gang up on their squad, the Roamer is the first to engage, ensuring the safety of the primary team hero. It also helps heroes in other lanes. However, the team does not forget to use the support items, so the Roamer does not hinder the gold flow of other heroes, allowing them to fill empty lanes and have the potential to push the creeps.

He emphasised that having a good Roamer is crucial to avoid losing in many ways as it helps maintain control of the map. Therefore, he must be prepared to support his team members and motivate them, regardless of the outcome.

As Cambodia is the host for the first time, he has put in extra effort for the Cambodian national team. Kiripost/Siv Channa
As Cambodia is the host for the first time, he has put in extra effort for the Cambodian national team. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Chok Pheatak, 22, plays the role of Hyper, or Jungle, which involves carrying out and supporting another team member. His team members provide constant support to help him maximise his farming. This is considered the most challenging role in Mobile Legends as it involves obtaining the Turtle and Lord.

Pheatak stated, "I never thought of joining such a big event like the ASEAN Para Games because before I only played in my free time for entertainment and to make friends online. However, when the opportunity arose, I decided to participate and aim to win as much as possible."

He mentioned that when he initially played Mobile Legend, no one knew he only had one arm due to an incident when he was young involving an ice-crushing machine. After many years, he revealed his true ability and proved that he can play exceptionally well with one arm. However, some people refused to believe him, so he took a picture and showed it as evidence.

He recalled that his family used to complain and scold him, questioning the benefits of playing games and whether he could depend on them in the future when he invested so much time in gaming. He acknowledged being addicted to the game at that time.

He confirmed that initially, someone asked him if he was interested in joining the ASEAN Para Games Team Cambodia, but the person only provided registration links and did not respond further. It was another opportunity when KAKA42 contacted him, and they agreed to join the 12th ASEAN Para Games. 

As Cambodia is the host for the first time, he has put in extra effort for the Cambodian national team. He wants everyone to know that he can excel even with only one arm. The team is now prepared for the competition after training with KAKA42, and he informed them about the importance of mutual understanding and cooperation until the end of the tournament.

Vichet Sokchea, 18, who plays the role of Gold Lane player, said, "I am the youngest member of the team, but my skills are acceptable for the 12th ASEAN Para Games because I have been playing Mobile Legend since grade 7, and now I'm in grade 12 at Hun Sen Takhmao [school]."

He attributed his progress to the team's strong support, their ability to identify weaknesses, and find immediate solutions. The Gold Lane is a lane in Mobile Legends positioned far away from where the Turtle initially spawns. It is ideal for heroes playing the marksman role, as they can develop quickly in this lane, obtaining a substantial amount of gold by eliminating siege minions.

He explained that marksman heroes are relatively weak in the early game and require safe gameplay to gather gold and obtain equipment. By eliminating the gold-carrying minions, the Gold Lane provides a significant amount of extra gold to the marksman hero. Playing this role requires quickness and flexibility.

He acknowledged that Mobile Legends can have both positive and negative effects. On the positive side, it can be a stress reliever. For instance, during his younger days, his parents would have conflicts, and he used games to escape. Additionally, he earned money by selling his accounts to others. However, the negative aspect was that he did not perform well academically as he did not get enough sleep, and his eyes sometimes suffered, leading to unclear vision.

Kheng Sophorn, 34, a computer teacher, expressed his joy at being given the chance to join the ASEAN Para Game. He said, "I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time because, as a person with a disability since childhood, I also want people to see that having a disability is not an obstacle but a negative perception when people don't have an open mind to accept us."

He plays the role of an Experience Lane (SUB-EXP) and has trained with the team to share experiences and face challenges together. This role is particularly helpful for the Jungle. The EXP Lane is one of the lanes in Mobile Legends where minions that carry experience (EXP) spawn. Fighting in this lane allows heroes to gain experience and level up quickly.

He expressed his hope for a good outcome for the team. Personally, he wishes for the Esports Federation to create and promote more opportunities for people with disabilities, both locally and internationally. Despite being educated, people with disabilities still face challenges in finding employment.

He added that some places are not accessible for people with mobility impairments, making it difficult for them to imagine going to work. Even a minor disability can require double the space.

The team members are urging the E-Sports Federation Cambodia to organise more competitions for players with disabilities, as they want to showcase their abilities. They said sport has a significant impact on people with disabilities, encouraging them to reach their full potential and advocating for social change. It also enables individuals with disabilities to develop important social skills, gain independence, and become catalysts for change.