Thousands of fans from around the world have descended on South Korea’s capital, Seoul, for the League of Legends (LoL) world championship final today, widely considered the Super Bowl of e-sports.
First held in 2011, the League of Legends world championship has rapidly grown to become one of the crown jewels of e-sports, which are globally forecast to attract audiences of nearly 1.4 billion by 2025.
South Korean powerhouse T1, who lost in last year’s world final, face China’s Weibo Gaming at the Gocheok Sky Dome, a baseball stadium that can seat 16,000 people.
“Every time the LoL world championship was held in South Korea, we were not able to advance, but this year, we’ve secured the opportunity to play ... in front of our [South] Korean fans,” T1’s Faker, a superstar often hailed as the Michael Jordan of e-sports, said at a press conference this week.
“I hope to end this rare... opportunity with a positive result,” he said.
Faker, whose real name is Lee Sang-hyeok, is looking to win a record fourth world title with T1. He won gold with South Korea at the Asian Games this year.
He has celebrity status in gaming-mad South Korea, where fans chant his name during matches.
At a fan zone set up for the final in central Seoul, people lined up to take photographs with life-sized cutouts of Faker and his team.
“My favorite is Faker,” said Park Jeong-hyeon, a 22-year-old student who said she has been playing League of Legends with her friends for three years.
She compared him to K-pop’s biggest stars.
“He plays so well, it makes me wonder how he does it. I’d say he’s the BTS of e-sports,” she said.
Many in the fan zone were decked out in costumes and carried props as they posed for photos.
League of Legends involves two teams with five players each competing in a battleground where the goal is to destroy the opponent’s base.
Screaming and cheering fans follow the action on giant screens above the teams.
Tickets for the final at the 16-000 capacity Sky Dome sold out in 10 minutes when they were made available in August, League of Legends maker Riot Games said.
Dozens of cinemas across South Korea are also to screen the final live. Those tickets also sold out rapidly.
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