SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea’s esports powerhouse T1 won the League of Legends World Championship by defeating China-based Weibo Gaming.
South Korea’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok – arguably the most well-known face in the esports world – jumped out of his seat to celebrate with fellow team members Zeus, Oner, Gumayusi, and Keria as they outperformed Weibo Gaming by winning three consecutive rounds in Seoul on Sunday.
It was the team’s record fourth win in one of the most popular esports tournaments in the world.
Thousands of fans, many in League Of Legends costumes, filled a baseball stadium in Seoul for the championship which has became a mainstay for the billion-dollar global esports industry.
Wacharakorn Maneechote, a 25-year-old fan, said he flew in from Thailand to watch the final game and to cheer his favourite player Faker.
“God of our time,” he said, referring to T1’s leading player.
League Of Legends is one of the most popular video games, where two teams of five powerful champions face each other in a bid to destroy the other’s base.
“Everyone plays League Of Legends these days,” said Jung Byeong-il, a South Korean fan.
Lee, who won gold with South Korea at the Asian Games this year, is a rock star in South Korea where gaming culture is prevalent.
Esports players are known to retire young, usually logging off before the age of 25. Lee said he will make a retirement plan “later” after “working hard for the remaining years”.
Lee said one of the challenges he’d given himself was to keep his composure regardless of what was happening in the game.
“My personal goal in this final was actually to imagine an instance when we’d lose 3-0 but I’d still be smiling, and I tried to play with such a mindset," Lee said.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol made note of T1's victory on Monday, congratulating the team on his official Facebook page.
“In Hangzhou Asian Games, for which esports was selected as an official sport for the first time, South Korea won four medals. In continuation of this success, (T1) has won (the League of Legends World Championship) and with this win, our country’s reputation as a front-runner in esports has once again been announced to the world,” Yoon said.
The championship attracted six million concurrent viewers at its peak according to the tracking and analytics service Esports Charts.
The statistics don’t include Chinese livestreaming platform views due to “the unreliability of the data they provide” according to the company. – AP