SEOUL: Tens of thousands of eSports fans packed a giant soccer stadium in South Korea on Saturday to watch the final of the global tournament for League of Legends (LoL) — a popular video game with a worldwide following.
Saturday’s highly-anticipated LoL World Championship final saw Chinese team Invictus Gaming competing against pan-European team Fnatic, the winner of the tournament’s first season in 2011.
The multiplayer online battle game is played by an estimated 100 million fans worldwide, with dozens of professional teams competing in international championships viewed by millions online and offline.
Fans flocked to the Munhak soccer stadium in Incheon, west of Seoul, hours before the beginning of the final at 5pm (0800 GMT), waving banners in support of their favourite teams or players.
All 26,000 tickets were sold out as fans packed the open stadium where giant posters of the players were hung on the walls.
Silas Ragan, a 18-year-old fan from Portland, Oregon, was one of the diehard followers.
“This is the Superbowl of video games,” he said, adding he travels every year around the world to watch the finals with his father.
“We are here for the hype, the community, and the energy,” he said.
His father, Ellis Ragan, said, “We love the experience and excitement, and knowing that we are at the biggest (eSports) event of year.”
The audience — including some dressed as their favourite characters in the game — erupted into roars as six players from each team, standing on a floating platform, appeared from each side of the main stage.
After the game started, the fans cheered and gasped at each move of the players whose online battle was shown on giant screens at the stadium.
Invictus scored a landslide victory by thrashing Fnatics 3-0 during Saturday’s best-of-five series, which were watched by more than a million on online streaming sites.
South Korean teams have topped the world championships for years with “Faker” — a star player for Seoul’s SK Telecom T1 team and considered the world number one — dominating the game.
No South Korean teams made it to the final this time but two South Korean players competed at Saturday’s competition as members of Invictus, who were also lead by a South Korean coach.—AFP