Team from Bangladesh qualifies for World Cup of Pokémon

This year's World Cup of Pokémon qualifiers featured over 200 players from 17 teams, each representing their countries/continents to claim the final three spots in the main knockoff series.
Pokémon Bangladesh
Team Bangladesh scored the highest in the qualifiers, with a score of 12-4 against nations such as the United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Argentina, Greece, South Korea and many more.

A team from Bangladesh has recently qualified for the World Cup of Pokémon, an international online tournament hosted by Smogon, the largest competitive Pokémon community in the world. 

This year's World Cup of Pokémon qualifiers featured over 200 players from 17 teams, each representing their countries/continents to claim the final three spots in the main knockoff series. Each player faced two opponents each and the top 3 teams with the best overall score advanced to the main stage.

Team Bangladesh scored the highest in the qualifiers, with a score of 12-4 against nations such as the United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Argentina, Greece, and South Korea. Starting on June 4, Team Bangladesh will face 15 other teams from the US, Latin America, Oceania, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, and more in the main stages of the tournament.

Remember Pokémon?

Pokémon is currently the highest-grossing media franchise in the world, reporting a total revenue of $76.4 billion as of May 2021. Their latest Nintendo Switch games, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, sold over 22 million copies since their release on November 18, 2022. 

While most Bangladeshis' first introduction to this franchise of colourful creatures was the Pokémon anime that used to air on Cartoon Network in the mid-2000s, there are still a significant amount of fans both locally and worldwide - amassing a community of like-minded enthusiasts who dabble in everything this vast brand has to offer, including but not limited to the aforementioned anime, video games, trading cards, spinoffs, collaborations, merchandises, and of course, competitive Pokémon battling.

Competitive Pokémon battling? That's a thing?

Competitive Pokémon battling, to those uninitiated with the concept, involves making teams of 6 Pokémon and battling versus your opponent, with the goal of knocking their Pokémon out before yours are knocked out. There are two versions of competitive Pokémon most popular among fans. The official version, known as VGC (Video Game Championships), is hosted by The Pokémon Company International and Nintendo. Such tournaments are held all over the world in regional events, with winners from each regional being invited to the grand stage - the VGC Championships. 

These VGC tournaments are played using the official Nintendo console of the time (DS, 3DS, Switch) and players must raise their own Pokémon in the original Pokémon games (Sun/Moon, Sword/Shield, Scarlet/Violet, etc.). VGC games are played in a Doubles format - you bring a team of 6, but use only 4 per battle in a set of 3 games. In Doubles, two of each player's Pokémon are active in the field at the same time.

Unfortunately, despite the glamour and appeal of international VGC tournaments, such events are hosted internationally and are generally difficult for Bangladeshis to attend. So, what's the alternative? 

The online competitive Pokémon community

Fortunately, fan-based online communities exist, that host tournaments from anywhere in the world using a browser-based simulator called Pokémon Showdown. Using Pokémon Showdown, anyone can make a team of 6 from scratch, without the hassle of raising the creatures on your own or even using the main games or the official consoles. 

Smogon, the largest of such online communities for competitive Pokémon, promotes and hosts multiple large-scale competitive Pokémon tournaments every year, bringing about 18.5 million users to their website every month. Among their most popular tournaments is the World Cup of Pokémon, which, as mentioned earlier, allows teams to represent their home countries/continents in a battle for the ultimate prize of glory and honour. 

The matches of Smogon tournaments are played on Pokémon Showdown, in various Singles, Doubles and fan-made formats, with the Singles format being the most popular and the format of choice in big tournaments such as the World Cup. Smogon's formats are based on tiers, ranking Pokémon on player-based usage and viability, thus expanding upon the more restricted official format and even allowing fan-based rulesets for specific custom formats. This makes Showdown a popular site for competitive battling among enthusiasts, with over 10 million matches played monthly, in over 100 active formats with sub-communities of their own. 

Behind the Bangladeshi team

This is the 5th year Bangladesh has attempted to pass the qualifying stage of the World Cup of Pokémon. The team members are part of a Facebook group called 'Bangladeshi Pokémon Battlers', which has been a hub for local Pokémon fans and competitive players since its inception in 2012. 

Most of the players in Team Bangladesh have been playing competitive Pokémon for a long time, dabbling in tournaments hosted locally in the Bangladeshi Pokémon Battlers group and even competing with notable success in international tournaments in Smogon. The members of this year's Team Bangladesh are as follows: Soumav Biswas, Mir Muhib Hosain, Shadman Khalid Chowdhury, Shafakat Arifeen, Uzair Uddin Ahmed, Arafi Kabbo Milky, Mohammad Kaif Sewak, Sadman Sakib Nipun, A K M Mushfiqur Rahman, Nadid Masrur Kabir, Fahim Shahriar, and Asim Abrar and Albab Maswood Haider as co-captains.

"The result of this year's World Cup achievement did not happen on a whim, but rather as a result of playing for years among our own community in our Facebook group," says Asim Abrar, who is currently doing his Masters at the Department of Disaster Science and Climate Resilience at Dhaka University. "Most of us have known each other since 2015 and eventually became good friends. That's the beauty of Pokémon. It's not only an online game for us but rather a beloved community consisting of a diverse group of people from all across Bangladesh." 

Albab Maswood Haider, a third-year student at BRAC University's Microbiology Department, is a relatively new player who got into Showdown during the pandemic. In that short time, he not only became a captain of the national team, but also a 'global voice' at Smogon - a role that is awarded to users who have done exceptional work for Showdown and the online community. "It was always a constant struggle trying to explain to people that yes Bangladesh was a real country, and no, it's not a part of India," says Albab. He adds, "After so many attempts, we have finally managed to put Bangladesh's name on the main stage of the World Cup of Pokémon - an achievement that will put more positive recognition on our country's name among international players, while hopefully reaching out to local fans as most don't know about competitive Pokémon or Showdown."

Pokémon, despite being known as a children's franchise to many local fans who still recognise the name, is predominantly played competitively by an older audience. This year's Bangladeshi team consists of SSC graduates, university students to even graduates with full-time jobs. "Almost everyone has a childhood connection to this franchise be it the anime or the video game. We hope our success encourages more people to be involved in their hobbies no matter how silly they might be considered by others," adds Asim. He hopes that parents start becoming more encouraging to their children about playing video games to keep their minds fresh and healthy - though of course, moderation should always be exercised.

To the local players and fans alike, Pokémon knows no age. Playing this game - whether competitively or casually - can provide a welcome source of stress relief, something we all want in the usual chaos of our daily lives. Being involved in a friendly community full of like-minded individuals who just want to relive a fun part of their childhood is something that brings joy and positivity to everyone involved. Sometimes, it helps keep that childhood alive - a piece of happiness we all dearly treasure.