The 2019 Southeast Asian Games, held in the Philippines late November through mid-December of last year, was not only a successful hosting stint for the country but also a groundbreaker in terms of new sporting events that were introduced for contention. They ran the gamut from conventional (3×3 basketball), to extreme (skateboarding) to awesomely niche: e-sports. Six medal events were given for that sport last year. The next SEA Games host, Hanoi in Vietnam, was forced to cut down the number of events for their turn in 2021, due to lack of funding on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. E-sports aficionados are determined to not let that sport be cut.

According to The Philippine Star, not only is the previous Southeast Asian Games host the Philippines invested in preserving their debuted e-sports events for the following one in Vietnam next year, they also have the support of the techy contest’s regional governing body. There is communication between the respective presidents of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF) and the National Electronic Sports Federation of the Philippines (NESFP), Sebastian Lau and Ramon Suzara, to convince the organizing committee for the 2021 Hanoi SEA Games to include e-sports among the medal events.

Compared to the 56 sports events boasted by the Philippines last year, Hanoi’s 2021 competitive slate is 20 sports less at just 36, primarily the sports already contested at major international events such as the Olympic Games. This was necessitated by the significant budget cuts on the upcoming SEA Games – half of its original – by the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) as part of their health and safety measures against the ravages of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

When an appeal by Abraham Tolentino, president of the Philippine Olympic Committee, to add more sports (including e-sports) to the Hanoi SEA Games program fell through, the AESF and NESFP have decided to weigh in their requests as well. “I am writing this letter to seek your support in driving our Olympic collaboration agenda for the upcoming 2021 SEAG in Hanoi,” writes AESF head Lau to NESFP chief Suzara. And they are not the only countries taking steps to address the lack of e-sports, which was competed in by six southeast Asian nations last year including Vietnam and the Philippines, which won the most gold.

Electronic sports were shown as a demonstration game during the 2018 Asian Games at Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia. The reception was good enough to push through with it becoming an official medal event at the Manila SEA Games only the following year. The Asian Electronic Sports Federation already has 45 countries in Asia as members.

Image from Vietnam Investment Review