“I’ve always felt like a Malaysian. I was born and raised here.”
20-year-old gamer Muhammad Aiman Hafizi Ahmad, who was born in Malaysia and raised in the city of Taiping, sat for every local public school examination, and even moved to another state to pursue his esports career at eighteen.
Yet, when he was given the chance to represent his country at the international stage thrice, he couldn’t go because he was stateless and did not have a passport.
Born to an Indonesian mother, Aiman was adopted by a Malay family when he was only ten days old. However, he’d always known he was adopted. “My family aren’t the type to keep secrets,” he explained.
He began applying for his citizenship at 12 years old, but heard nothing from the Malaysian government until he was about 15. His request was rejected but no reason was given.
He and his family decided to try again when he turned 18, this time by making it a public case to get people’s attention.
And it was then they discovered, through the help of a lawyer, the missing component: they lacked a police statement to confirm that he was not abducted as a child despite having been legally and willingly given away.
Stepping into Esports
So, while all of that was happening, Aiman realised he could not pursue his tertiary education until his citizenship issue was settled. That was when Aiman played games full-time.
“At first, I played games to get rid of my boredom,” he said, recounting his humble beginnings in PUBG Mobile. Things quickly escalated when his friend offered him a spot to join a tournament.
“I never expected to have gotten into esports. At the time, I didn’t have any money and we went into it thinking that if we won we’d have some cash, so why not? But then we ended up getting second place! From then on, I focused on it.”
An Uphill Climb
From then on, he began his career in gaming with the team AROV Esports. It was a pretty successful career, too. But due to his statelessness and the lack of a passport, he wasn’t able to represent Malaysia overseas. This happened not once, but three times.
Significant parties even stepped up to offer help to him: the Malaysian Esports Federation and Tencent (the developer of PUBG Mobile) sent support letters on his behalf. But their assistance only helped expedite the process, and not influence the actual ruling.
“I felt like giving up and retiring from the competitive esports scene,” he said, recounting his frustration after not being able to represent his country. “I couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t get a job, get a license, or even open a bank account. To me, those are the three most important things to do when you become an adult.”
However, Aiman said he acknowledged the fact that his stint in esports played a significant role in helping him get his citizenship.
He said his ability to qualify three times to compete at the international level, was his golden ticket to get the approval.
News of his newly gained citizenship finally came on August 18, just a day after his 20th birthday.
“It was the most precious birthday present I got in the past 20 years I’ve been alive,” he said enthusiastically. And he received the official letter certifying his citizenship just a day after Merdeka Day (Malaysian Independence Day).
An Open Future
At the moment, Aiman is staying at a gaming house, waiting to receive his IC (identification card) to officially start his adult life.
“My first plan is to come back to my esports career,” he said, adding that he is playing PUBG Mobile as a support main.
He also said he harbours dreams of staying with his original team, AROV Esports.
“I might want to try and look for a part-time job, finally get my driving license, and open a bank account.”
When asked, Aiman expressed hope that he could one day represent Malaysia in esports again.
“It’s my dream to be able to do that. I couldn’t do it three times (due to my status) but hopefully, I will be given more chances to represent my country. I’ll try my best.”