The players of SK Telecom T1 won $1 million this weekend and can now call themselves the best League of Legends players in the world. Most people called them that already, but having won the League of Legends World Championships grand finals this weekend in Berlin, they now have the official title. They can also boast of being the only team to win the tournament twice.
However, the players haven’t really thought about what they’re going to do with the money yet. In fact it seems that their priority right now is to go back home after a month spent travelling to cities around Europe and playing against the best teams in the world.
“It’s been a month since we left Korea, and obviously I’m missing home. I just really want to go back home and have some delicious Korean food,” said SKT’s support player Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan in the press conference after the final. We were told that the players’ favourite place for food on the trip so far was in Berlin, but that might be down to the Korean restaurant in close proximity to their hotel.
“As for the prize money, I haven’t thought about it yet, but I hope I can put as much of it into the bank as possible,” said SKT’s mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. The 19 year old has already won Worlds twice, and is widely recognised as the game’s best player. He isn’t content to rest on his laurels, however. Faker doesn’t want a repeat of 2014, when SKT failed to even make it to the World Championships. “After I won in 2013 I was not able to make it to Worlds immediately after the following year. That shows how difficult it is to stay at the top, and I will have to put in a lot of effort to stay there this time.”
SKT’s coach Kim “kkOma” Jung-gun is also keen to keep the effort up and not stumble like last time they won. “I don’t know how the upcoming games are going to turn out, but because we’ve had such intense practice time during Worlds, I think we can go back to Korea and do very well” he said.
A lot of work has gone into this victory. “Ever since we came to Europe we’ve only been in practice rooms and at the venues so we don’t really know what the difference between Europe and Korea is,” joked SKT’s ad carry Bae “Bang” Jun-sik. Their top laner Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-Hwan added that “for a lot of us, it was our first time in Europe. We did get some time to travel around each of the cities and it was an awesome experience. Personally I think the enthusiasm the fans have in Europe is amazing, and much higher than in other regions around the world.”
SKT T1 only lost a single game in the entire tournament, and that loss came in the final against the KOO Tigers. The rest of their games were won with apparent ease. Despite their overwhelming success, the tarnished undefeated run did sting a little for the players. “I feel really happy that SKT has won Worlds twice,” said Marin. “But I was a little disappointed that we didn’t win the tournament without any defeats at all.”
SKT were also keen to point out their troubles in the game that they did lose, and even in ones where it seemed like they were largely on top. “I think KOO Tigers were able to take advantage of our mistakes in the early game,” said MaRin. “In the first game they tried too hard, and that’s why they failed. Other than that they got ahead because we made mistakes.”
The two teams in the final, SK Telecom T1 and KOO Tigers, were both from South Korea. European teams had a surprisingly good showing at Worlds this year, but ultimately Korea proved to be the dominant region, just like it has done for the past few years. What did the players think about the apparent gap in quality? “I feel really happy to have proven that Korea is where e-sports started,” said Bang. “My coach talked to one of Riot’s analysts Krepo [Mitch Voorspoels] and asked him why the European teams are doing better at this tournament. He said that Fnatic has an awesome coach, and Origen’s players try really hard. So I think if other players and coaches put as much effort in as they do the other regions will do better.”
“Fnatic, Cloud 9, and other western teams were actually really good in our practice games against them,” said Faker. “If I had to pick one team in the tournament that I was impressed by it would be Fnatic.” MaRin added that “even though Korea won Worlds this time round, Europe has Fnatic, China has EDG, and all the Taiwanese teams are really good as well, so it’s going to be really hard to predict who will win in the future.”
Every year, the winning team of Worlds has skins made for their most popular champions that they played during the tournament. The all important question was, which champion, and what sort of skin would the players desire? “I think Rumble and Fiora already have really good skins, so I would pick Renekton,” said MaRin. As for SKT’s jungler Bae “Bengi” Seong-ung, he would choose Elise. “Right now there’s only one real skin for Elise that I could use, so I wish there was more variety for her.”
Much has been made about Faker’s “broccoli” hair style at this year’s Worlds, even to the point where he promised to eat one on stage if they won the tournament ( he did). “I hope a bald champion will be made to have broccoli hair like myself” he said.
Another non-game related talking point the forward roll Faker pulled out during the opening ceremony. “I was really embarrassed by that, but I hope you liked it,” he said. The young League of Legends master hasn’t announced any plans yet about what he’ll do if SKT win Worlds for a third time next year—but if the team play as well in 2016 as they have done in Europe over the past month, I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.
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