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The Hope of Peru: Abel and Sapito ready to battle the world’s best Tekken players

There is a revival going on in South America right now, and I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about Tekken. In the last two years Latin America has gained the attention and respect of the Tekken community by facing some of the world’s best players and convincingly defeating them. Two such players are Abel Del Maestro and Sapito of Peru.

I connected with both of them for an interview because the world needs to hear from them. Rarely is the South American Tekken scene given a voice or visibility, and I strongly believe it is because of the image economic hardships have given many of their countries. Yet and still, there is a highly-competitive Tekken scene brewing and ready to spill over into other parts of the world.

One word you’ll see on more than one occasion in this interview is “hope.” And in one instance I was hit very hard by something  Sapito says using that very word. Hope is all many of our Latin American brothers and sisters have left. And for some of them, this hope is in Tekken – hoping that it will deliver them out of their situation, introducing them to better days and brighter horizons.

Special thanks to David Criva of Tekken Survivors (TKS) for helping me conduct and translate this interview.

First off, Abel, is Abel del Maestro your real name, or is that just your gamertag?  What’s the meaning behind the name?

Abel (A): No, it is not. I started to use that nickname since Tekken 6. There is a long story behind that name. I will try to summarize it. I’ve wanted to learn the capoeira fighting style since I was a child, but never had the time to do it. Once, I met a pastor who was a capoeira fighter before becoming a pastor. He showed me a little bit about what capoeira is, but he was not able to teach me more since he already was completely out from fights. Well, his last name was “Del Maestro,” when the time came, I started to use his last name as my fighter name to.

I like that story. Sapito, how about you?

Sapito (S): Funny story. When I was a child I was too small to play on the arcades machines. I used to jump into a chair in order to play, so the older friends in my neighborhood started to call me “sapito,” because I would jump and was so small. “Sapito” means “little frog.” (laughs)

What part of Peru do you guys live in?

A: Lima, Peru.

I think many Tekken players from North America gained a lot of respect for South Americans from the last Tekken Collision. We saw how passionate you all were for the game, and how much you played at a high level. Abel, you actually got eliminated very early in that tournament though. We didn’t even get to see you on stream. What happened?

A: It is a weird story, but it was my fault at the end. I played my pool fights the same way I play in other tournaments in South America like TXT. I used secondary characters – Lars, Steve Fox, Heihachi – because I thought that after the pool phase the bracket was going to be reseted to start Top 32, TXT tournament model. So, I lost against Carlitzu in the winners finals of my pool. Then people told me that I was going to be in losers bracket the rest of the tournament, EVO model. I was disspointed, but it was my fault for not reading the rules. Then, just one fight away, in Top 8 I fought Nene and lost in a very close match. As a result I got ninth place. Now I know that I need to read more. (laughs)

Sapito, you won that tournament. What did you think of Saint as a competitor?

S: Saint is a true Tekken champion and it is one of the most humble people I’ve met. I had the opportunity to fight against him in TXT Bolivia 2014 for the first time. His confidence in his game can make you lose yours. He really knows how to control the match, he is very patient for moments but very agressive/crazy sometimes.

That’s what Knee said as well, that Saint was “daring” against him in EVO grand finals. He played a very “yolo” style. But continue.

During Collision grand finals he sent me to losers side with a strong performance. I felt that fear of facing a true champion who was hungry for victory at that moment. Fortunately, I surpassed that feeling and now I just have to say thanks to Saint for visiting us, because I learned a lot of self-control from his visits to South America. I really have a great admiration for him as a Tekken player.

That’s awesome man. I hope those words get back to him. Think you guys will make EVO next year?

A: Yes, we are working on that.

S: It is very hard for us to travel to the US since there are VISA issues that we need to face. However, it is my dream to face the best players in the best tournament and I’m working by myself to do that.

A: I’m working very hard to surpass the VISA problem. I’m confident that next year I will be at EVO since I’ve visited a lot of countries, including Europe. The embassy should take into account that I’m an international competitor. Doors should be open next year. I just need to be patient.

When you did guys first start playing Tekken?

A: I started to play tekken back in 2000, when Tekken Tag Tournament 1 was at its peak. I played in an arcade center very close to my home, but I just played because I liked the graphics and the King throws. (laughs) However, it was in 2004 that I started to play it more seriously. I have played all Tekken versions since TTT1, but it was TTT2 that I started to be internationally competitive.

Why do you love it so much?

A: Tekken is a very entertaining game. You can explore your creativity doing extremely complex juggles, or learn how to punish properly what your opponent does. The opportunity to enter into the mind of your opponent is amazing. All those things together with the variety of fighting styles that the characters have make it a unique game.

Yes, very much like a chess match. It’s not so random, but very calculated. What about you Sapito?

S: I played Tekken more than ten years ago. I also started with TTT1 but the difference between me and Abel is that I did not play Tekken 4 through Tekken 6. I just moved from TTT1 to TTT2 back in 2013. Maybe you don’t know, but there is a strong TTT1 community still alive in Peru, more than fiften years old. This is the cradle of Peruvian players and some of the top TTT2 [players] like Nene, Misterio, Chaoz and others came from this TTT1 community. There are still a lot of TTT1 strong players that only play TTT these days. Maybe you will see them fighting in Tekken 7: Fated Retribution. Who knows? I see Tekken as a very complex game, only if you are very dedicated can you be the best. The complexity and the graphics make the game perfect for me. It is like a challenge to become the best. That’s why I love it.

Exactly. You get out of it what you put in. If you practice, it will reward you. Do you think South America is respected in the Tekken community?

A: I think we got some respect after the world watched our performance in South American tournaments and Europe. However, the big tournaments are mainly in US and we need to travel there to show everyone that we can win outside our country.

S: I think the same. A lot of people now turn their heads to Peru when we announce a tournament. That is a big achievement for us. Asia, US and Europe are the next stops.

I wrote a story on El Negro that was available when we first launched, and it peopled shared it like crazy. In less than a week it had nearly 600 shares. In it I talk about El Negro’s plight of being an aspiring pro Tekken player from South America. Can you identify any with his story?

S: Yes. There are some coincidences between South American countries, like the lack of support for eSports. Most of the people that play Tekken in Peru are from low socio-economical status. Peruvian Tekken players live with around $230 per month as a salary. That is the reason why there is always a huge effort behind each trip or event in Peru. We believe that our efforts will bring good things in the future. It is not easy to be a professional player in South America.

What needs to happen in order for you guys to travel more and participate in international tournaments? Do you need sponsorship? 

S: All our trips until now have been funded by the Peruvian Tekken community. However, trips to Europe, Asia or US can cost between $1,000-1,500 USD. Can you imagine if we wanted to send  four players?

$6,000 at most.

S: The best way to travel outside South America is getting sponsorship. I recently got a sponsorship from the team New Master from Brazil. They will be helping me to travel to TXT Brazil and hopefully other tournaments. Let’s see what happens.

Awesome I’m glad to hear that. I know the owner, Julio, quite well.

A: Getting a sponsorship is one of my goals. I know it is not very easy for big teams to sponsor players from South America, but I believe that our talent will be valued at some point. Again, I just need to be patient.

I believe it will happen man. But it may mean you have to move to help reduce costs. Would you be willing to move to the United States?

A: Yes, of course. As I told you, I want to fight against the best. If there is an opportunity to fight in US for some time I will take it.

S: That is my goal too, show what we can do in the big stage will be awesome. Living in the US for some time sounds like a great experience as a player. Hope I can walk that road in the near future.

I hope so too, fellas. At the Tekken Peru Tournament a couple of years ago, there was some “noise” that came out of that event. But at Tekken Collision, all of the international guests had nothing but good things to say. Was that a concern at all beforehand? How happy were you that things went smoothly?

A: I believe that sometimes when you fail, it allows you the opportunity to grow more and get more intense about what you are looking for. I’m happy that everything went well with this new event and hope we can have more guests in the next years.

S: Collision was a the biggest tournament in our history. I am happy that people who visited us had had a good experience in our country.

Well said. Is Tekken 7 in South America right now? Have you had a chance to play it?

A: Unfortunately, Tekken 7 is still not available for Sout America. I had the opportunity to play one match during my visit to France for the Ultimate Tournament.

Oh wow, you were there? I didn’t know that. So what did you think?

A: The game looks awesome and the updated version, Fated Retribution, looks even better. Again, patience. I think I should call myself Abel The Patient. (laughs)

S: I did not have the opportunity to play Tekken 7, but I hope Namco can bring us a little of what Tekken 7 is, like the Tekken Tour in the US. Hope is the last thing you lose.

Okay, I was laughing, but you just got deep on me. (laughs) Hope is the last thing you lose. Deep! So far, out of the characters you both play, the only one that has returned so far is Ling Xiaoyu. No capos have shown up, and Lei Wulong hasn’t shown up yet either.  If they never show up, who would you use in Tekken 7?

A: Steve, Law and Jack, but I’m confident Harada-san will bring capos to T7FR.

S: Xiaoyu and Josie. My main character is Lei and I’m sure we will see him in T7FR too.

Good deal. Thank you, fellas. Anything you want to tell our site visitors? How can people keep up with you?

A: I just want to say thank you for the interview and TekkenGamer for the global perspective they have. You can follow me in my Facebook account, Abel Segovia Julian.

Indeed, man.

S: Thank you TekkenGamer for this space to share a little bit of what we are as a players for the international community. I only have Facebook, Jean Carlos Huaman Tello. Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any advice, or maybe to share advice to improve my playstyle. At the end, we learn everyday something new.

Well, said. Last question. Who’s the best between you two? (laughs)

A: I am. (laughs)

S: I am. (laughs)

Thanks fellas! (laughs)

Aziz Peregrino-Brimah aka Zee the CEO | Founder / Editor-in-chief of TekkenGamer | Gaming has been a passion of Zee's since the early days of Atari and ColecoVision. His first experience with Tekken was in the early 90's, and it was Tekken 3 that sealed the deal. True story... As a teenager Zee once received his Winn-Dixie paycheck and spent it all at the arcade the same day. Needless to say, his mother wasn't pleased.


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