This article is part of “Pro Player Perspectives” an ongoing series of articles written by pro players, coaches, and esports talent.
My name is Wong Xing Lei, but I’m better known by my in-game name, Chawy.
“Chawy” was a random name I thought of when I was still in secondary school. I started playing competitive at a very young age, and I knew this was what I wanted, so I told myself I needed to find a IGN that is easy for everyone to remember.
I’m probably Singapore’s most successful League of Legends professional player to date. I’ve competed in the Garena Premiere League, IEM, the League of Legends Master Series in Taiwan, and even the World Championship.
I also played Dota professionally for many years before I even got into League of Legends, and had some decent results. The way League is played is not too different, so it was easy to pick up.
The first time I competed in League of Legends was back in 2010. I was invited to play in “Ring of Champions”, the first ever LoL tournament held in Southeast Asia.
They invited all the best Dota players from the region, including big names like Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung and Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang. My team won the RoC, and I felt pretty confident in competing in LoL professionally.
When I first started competing, it was one of the most tiring periods of my life. I tried my best during basic training when I was serving in National Service, which is compulsory for all males in Singapore.
I appealed to the commanding officer in my camp many times to be assigned an army vocation where I could book out of camp daily so that I could attend esports training and represent Singapore.
Everyday, I woke up at 6 a.m. to book in, booked out at 5:30 p.m., rushed to our LoL training venue, and trained with the team till 10 p.m. I then headed back home to play ranked solo queue until 2 a.m., sometimes 4 a.m., then rested.
I remember it very well because I only had two to three hours sleep for many, many months, but it felt so good to be chasing my dream!
Starting out with the Singapore Sentinels
My first ever GPL match was one where I felt fulfilled. Back then, Taipei Assassins were known for being unbeatable. There were many stories about how insane they were, but I recall being able to get lots of kills against them in my first game.
We almost took victory, if not for my excitement. I threw the game at the Nexus cause I was too young and reckless.
I especially enjoyed playing my trademark Karma mid back in the days in the IGN ProLeague Season 4. At that time, Karma wasn’t considered a good champion, and was a support. But I played every champion as AP mid laners, and Karma was one of those I loved playing.
Being in the Singapore Sentinels however, was not entirely a happy memory for me. I felt that most of my teammates did not put in the same effort that I did. They attended the three-hour training daily — and that was it. After training, they went out for parties and drinks.
The situation got so bad that they would be late for training, fool around during training, and even during official tournament matches.
I was not initially picked to join the Singapore Sentinels at the beginning because I had just enlisted for National Service, but was offered a contract later on after my showings in local tournaments.
When I joined SGS, the manager told me that they did not have extra money allocated, so I was not paid a single cent despite being on the team. Watching my teammates not trying and getting paid well while I worked really hard without receiving a single cent was one of the worst feelings ever.
Even though we were the best team Southeast Asia produced at that time, all this resulted in SGS losing two World Championship Qualifier matches.
I wanted to stop playing competitively because of these failures, but was offered a position in Taipei Assassins soon after. Little did I know at that time, my former SGS team mates started to spread rumors about me. They said that I “betrayed” them, and that I wasn’t a good friend because I tried too hard and didn’t attend the parties.
Whatever the case, I moved forward and concentrated on my personal goals. I am always focused on being the best at what I do. During that period, it was about being the best mid laner and AD carry.
A new life in the LMS in Taiwan
Going over to Taiwan, it was not easy being overseas alone, but the first step is always the hardest. When I was there, the friendliness of Taiwanese people made me felt at home, especially our manager, Quaker.
My Mandarin was actually super bad! Playing in Taiwan meant speaking Mandarin and knowing the Chinese names for champions and items. I had to watch the Garena Premiere League Taiwanese commentators every night to improve my communication.
I started to feel stressed for the first time in my life because the competition there is much tougher than back home. Everyone is trying hard, and if you slack, others are going to be better than you. It felt so great!
Still, being a substitute player made me feel frustrated at times. I used to ask myself and the coach about which areas I could improve so I could be better, so I could take the stage.
I’m the kind of person who works even harder when I’m unhappy, and my coach knew this very well. The thought of being champion, the thought of being better and better was what kept me going. Of course, not forgetting my family who supported me the most ever since I started competitive gaming.
Playing against Faker on the Worlds stage
When I did get to play on the big stage, I had the chance to go up against Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, who many people consider the greatest LoL player of all time. Of course, I was really nervous!
I remember our game against SK Telecom T1 on Day 3 of Groups at the 2017 World Championship. I was giving it my best, trying to test my limits against the best, but nerves got the better of me.
I was playing Syndra, and Faker was on Fizz. I’m not the best mechanical player, but I am very confident in my knowledge of the game. There was a early skirmish, and I made use of that to get very ahead of Faker, then started roaming for my team.
The game went smoothly at first, but halfway into the game, my heart was beating too fast, my brain stopped thinking, and my fingers froze. The normal clicks per minute for a pro player is super fast, and I dropped to about one click per second.
After that game, my managers asked if I was okay, because they overheard the Mic Check and realized I was stuttering. It was only a few years later when I realized that I could have asked for a pause at that time because I was facing a legitimate medical issue.
Nevertheless, it was an experience I would never forget. It felt great to accomplish a lead against the best player! When we lost, I smiled, as I felt blessed to be able to play against Faker on the main stage, but also regret that we didn’t get to grab that win.
Over the years, I have received the support from fans all around the world. I loved it when fans write many paragraphs just to show their support, or even those who write letters. Those are the ones that made me love my job, and I will never forget those moments.
A new career as Coach Chawy
To be honest, I never wanted to transit to coaching so early. I had lots of offers to be a coach for many years, but never took them because I wanted to continue to play.
It was during 2018 when I joined a new team, and the first thing the coach said to me was I’m too old to be playing. He had negative comments for everyone on the team, and I guess after too much brainwashing daily, you really start to accept the fact that you’re too old to be still playing.
The decision to stop doing what I had been doing for 14 years was never easy, and it still saddens me up till this day.
After retiring from pro play, I became a coach in the LMS. I used to workout a lot as a player because the training hours were really long, and exercising regularly keeps me refreshed. I still workout as a coach, but not as much.
It was easier to coach in Taiwan because I had made plans to move into this role. I knew what to teach my players, how many games they should be training, and so on.
After the LMS ceased, I posted online about looking for opportunities, and Falkol was one of the teams that contacted me. I had hopes to bring this team from a second tier league to Campeonato Brasileiro de League of Legends (CBLOL), and then to Worlds, but sadly it didn’t go as planned.
Players in the eastern regions would listen and do as I say, but when I coached Falkol in Brazil this year, due to culture, I couldn’t make them train a specific amount of hours or play a certain number of games.
There were players who didn’t train at all outside of scrims, and there was nothing I could do.
Trust me, I tried everything.
Language was not an issue as players in Falkol could communicate in English, and they were really friendly. They taught me Portuguese, and I learnt some of the basics.
Overall, life in Brazil was very different from home. You have to be very street smart, or you might run into trouble. Luckily, my Brazilian friends taught me a lot, and kept me safe.
While staying there, I video called my wife daily. Whether we’re sleeping or working, we would leave the video call on so that we could be with one another. Because of the timezone difference, she started waking up and sleeping the same time as I so that we could spend more time together.
Passing the baton: My advice to local LoL players
Every decision I made throughout my career was what I felt was the best at that time. If I had a choice to restart everything, I would make the same choice all over again.
In the course of my career, there were a lot of criticisms and lots of personal attacks, but this is how it is currently in the online world. You just learn to accept that this is part and parcel of your career and live with it.
There were no coaches back in the day when I first started competing, and it will always be my aim to help other players improve in the shortest amount of time possible so that they can get effective results.
Life as a pro player is short, and I hope to assist the younger generation in any way I can.
To the upcoming Singaporean LoL players out there, stop finding excuses. National Service, studies, or work, you’re just convincing yourself not to be good at the game.
Stop asking for rewards before bringing in results. Many Singaporeans ask for a high salary and sponsors even before showing results. Trust me on this one, get results first and rewards will come. Don’t give yourself another excuse to be unmotivated.
Lastly, make sacrifices and spend more time than others refining yourself. No one becomes the best at what they do just by doing what they are asked of. You either work your butt off trying to be the best, or don’t bother at all.