THE yo-yo craze might already be dead, but someone clearly forgot to tell art student Zafran Aqil, 19. And it’s a good thing no one did either, because the guy is now one of the best yo-yo players in the country!

Zafran has been successful not just in local yo-yo competitions, but in overseas ones as well. He placed third in the Central Malaysian Yo-yo Contest 2012, and was once invited to the Philippines as a guest performer at a competition!

He’s now sponsored by Singaporean yo-yo brand Diamont Noir, as well as clothing label Menagé.

He specialises in the 1A category, where the player performs string tricks with a single “sleeping” yo-yo. A sleeping yo-yo is one that continues spinning even after it has reached the end of the string.

Zafran admits that he was one of those who got caught up in the trend as a kid. He bought his first yo-yo when he was 14, and it cost him RM40. Now he has over 15 yo-yos, collectively worth at least RM3,000!

“I spend around RM130 every three months on maintenance and other accessories, mainly strings, bearings and friction pads,” he said.

But even with his sponsorship deals, Zafran has still had to fork out over RM6,000 over the past few years on his yo-yos and travelling expenses for overseas tournaments. He competes overseas at least two to three times a year, and he works part-time to help pay for these trips. This weekend, for example, he will be competing at the Bali International Yo-yo Open.

“I first got into yo-yo back when it was the ‘in’ thing (about five years ago). Everyone wanted to be a yo-yo player at the time,” he said. But like everyone else, his interest in the hobby disappeared after a few months.

It wasn’t until three years later, when he stumbled upon a shop selling yo-yos, that he picked it up again. The shop owner told him about a local yo-yo community called the Super Yo-yo Masters, and that’s where he started getting back into the game.

The group has weekly get-togethers, which Zafran always attends.

“The Super Yo-yo Masters were the very people who made yo-yo popular in Malaysia all those years ago. Even though the hype has died off, they are still very passionate about what they do today,” he said.

Zafran’s first performance, however, remains one of his most memorable. It was at a home for children with learning disabilities.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal at first, but after seeing how my performance made them so happy and excited, I knew I had done something that mattered,” he said.


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