Smeb has returned to kt Rolster after a half-year break.
Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho debuted in the pro scene in 2013 as a member of IM. In 2015, he joined ROX Tigers and his pro career started to bloom. With outstanding mechanics, the ability to carry his team, and an extremely deep champion pool, Smeb engraved his name alongside the best top laners in the world.
However, whatever goes up comes down. In his third year in kt Rolster, Smeb’s slump came with the team’s slump. After the worst year of his career, Smeb left the team and announced that he’ll be taking a break from pro play, promising that he’ll return in the summer after special training.
Smeb kept his word. He returned to kt Rolster, in which he had his most difficult days. When it was definite that Smeb will be returning, rumors spread that he’ll be going to a foreign team. Especially when his conversation with PraY went viral. How did Smeb return to kt Rolster? From his break to how he returned, and the different lifestyle in kt Rolster. Let’s have a look at what Smeb had to say.
Hello! It’s been quite a long time. Would you like to say hello to the fans?
During the break, fans sent a lot of cheers and support. I wasn’t quite sure whether or not I would be able to return, but I’m so thankful that fans kept cheering for me. It really meant a lot to me. Now, I’m back! (Laughs)
There’s a lot to ask you. Should we start with after you left the team at the end of 2019?
I had quite a long pro gaming career and I had always been winning except for the first two years. The year 2019 was the biggest crisis in my career. I tried to overcome it in various ways, but I wasn’t able to. It was a very regretful year personally and for the team as well. Because of that, I was really shaken up.
After 2019 summer, I thought, ‘Will I be able to keep playing as a pro player?’ Before that, I had only worried about how I could play well, how I could win. It was the first time I thought seriously about my life.
When I became a free agent, many teams gave me offers. Although it may not have been a huge amount of money, many teams contacted me, but I wasn’t able to say yes without hesitating. I had lost a lot of confidence and I was worried that I may not be able to do well in that team. So I decided to take a break for about at least a half-season.
As a pro gamer, it could be worse if you take a break. Didn’t you worry about that?
Obviously, I had a lot of worries. When I asked for advice from other pro gamers, most of them told me not to take a break. I don’t know what got into me, but at that time, I was confident that I’ll be able to get back to the top after taking a break, so I decided to take a break.
How was it during your break?
I don’t think it was easy. I was able to find out why the other pro gamers told me not to rest and in a way, it was harder than 2019. I’m a guy who likes to play around. I’ve always lived doing my best when I need to and enjoyed the best I could when I play. When I was in a team, there was a fixed routine so it was possible.
But on my own, the only thing I can do to practice is solo ranked. Taking a break isn’t quite taking a break. Every single game of solo ranked swayed my mood. I wanted to work again ASAP; it was a difficult time.
I once seriously considered retiring. I thought, ‘Should I retire? Should I find another way?’ Just by that thought entering my mind, I wanted to return to pro play whether or not I’m confident.
Spring split passed by and there were many rumors about where Smeb would go.
During the break, the only way of showing myself is my solo queue stats. I was worried that I wasn’t able to reach the LP goal of when I first decided to take a break, so not many teams would reach out to me. Thankfully, some teams from the LCK and abroad contacted me. I gave a lot of thought. Among the teams that contacted, there were a few teams that I thought I would have good synergy. One of them was kt Rolster.
Many fans thought that you’ll go to the LPL. Why did you choose kt Rolster?
I put in a lot of thought until the end. There was that incident in PraY’s stream… There’s something I really want to say about that. I’ll discuss that a bit later.
Anyways, I want to stay as a pro gamer for longer. Since the upcoming six months will decide my value for the next year, I thought a lot about in which team I could show my best. As a result, kt Rolster was the team that I felt that I could show my 100%. Also, LCK will start the franchise model in 2021. This year could be a chance to become kt Rolster’s face. It was a good choice for me in several ways.
Now, to talk about “the incident”. Your conversation with PraY was quite an issue.
Even the people close to me were quite curious about where I would go. The people from ROX Tigers as well as Peanut… But I didn’t tell anybody that I was having in-depth conversations with KT.
Then… You know, with people you’re really close, you tend to talk more freely, so I intended to tell him that there’s nothing with kt Rolster, but my words were a bit aggressive. And that was shown to many people. The first thing that came to mind after that was that I felt really sorry to the fans and kt Rolster officials.
At that time, Kuro and TusiN didn’t know and only the head coach knew. But that conversation went viral and I didn’t know how to react. So I wanted to talk about that through an interview or whatever I could do.
After all, everything went well with the conversation, so you returned to kt Rolster, right?
That happened at dawn, and I contacted them right away. I screenshot everything and sent them what happened. I explained in detail, and fortunately, they said, “It’s alright. Close friends could talk in that behavior.” I was really worried, not being able to sleep until they responded.
Other players contacted me as well. Everyone was sneering, asking what the hell did I do. They told me to sort everything out ASAP. They still say that it’s legendary that I came back to kt Rolster.
Now, let’s talk about the team. How does it feel practicing as a team again instead of practicing as an individual?
During my 6-month break, the only team game I played was the exhibition match on Afreeca TV. It hasn’t been long since I’ve returned, but playing scrims, getting feedback is really fun. It’s something I haven’t felt for a while. Since I’ve only been playing solo queues, I forgot a lot of things and I questioned myself if I was doing everything right. As there are many things I need to learn and fix, it’s more fun. I need to catch up with the team.
The current kt Rolster is quite different from the kt Rolster you played in for three years. What has changed the most?
First, is the team house. During my three years in KT, I asked for a better environment many times and that was finally reflected this year. When I first got to the team house, it was awesome. It’s big, pleasant… Water’s fine, air conditioning/heating is great, no bugs… It’s not that the former team house was bad, but it was close to a park so there were many, many bugs.
How many people use one room?
Usually, it’s two to three people per room. I use the same room with SoHwan and Kuro. No one snores, they’re both clean and nice, so it’s comfortable. Kuro complains a lot but he doesn’t nag me too much. I heard that SoHwan really likes me from before I returned to the team. He was quite excited to see me.
You’re reunited with Hirai, who you were with during your IM days.
I started my pro gaming career with Hirai. In my memory, Hirai was a very scary head coach. I was really young back then… Actually, I don’t quite remember since it’s been such a long time. When I ran into him at the arena, he used to say, “The old IM members should gather again.” It’s interesting that we did meet again.
You’re reunited with former teammates, Kuro from ROX and TusiN from IM as well.
That was one of the reasons I wanted to return to kt Rolster. They’re both very comfortable to be around and I thought I would be able to show my 100% if I play with them. I have many good memories with Kuro in ROX. I haven’t played any games with TusiN, but we got close since there weren’t many players of the same age as me. I’m really glad that we’re playing in the same team again.
When a player joins a team, we usually ask about the team chemistry and about adapting to the team. I don’t think that question would be necessary for you.
Well, there weren’t any problems in adapting to the team. Even the players I didn’t know before, they were really nice so they were easy to approach. I’ve already adapted and we’re getting along well.
Kuro’s the team’s captain. As the former captain, what do you think of captain Kuro?
I don’t like it (Laughs). Kuro’s style isn’t quite fit for the captain role. More than looking after the other players as the leader, he’s kind of more like a friend. An easygoing friend, more like a sandbag (Laughs). Probably TusiN is closer to being a captain. (Are you going to take it away from him?) It hasn’t been that long since I’ve come back, so I’ll see how it goes, and maybe after that...
Aiming did quite well during the spring split. He was the ace of the team. After playing with him, how is he?
I don’t know in detail since it hasn’t been that long, but he seems really good. Actually, not only Aiming, but the other teammates are really good, too. They told me the scrim results were very good from before I joined the team. I get to think that we could really aim for the championship. It’s good motivation, so I want to do my best to get good results.
Your goal for this summer would obviously be winning the summer championship and going straight to Worlds, right?
Of course, my goal is to win the championship. But there’s an important goal for me. The reason I took a break was that I was afraid of my own prowess. I want to break that fear and show my 100%. That’s my biggest goal. If I can, results would follow.
Lastly, a word to the fans who had been waiting for long?
Thank you for waiting for me for six months. I was able to endure the difficult times because the fans continued to cheer for me. In 2019, I often said that I’ll repay you for your support through my performances, but I wasn’t able to keep my word, so I’d like to repay you in double this summer. Thank you always. Fighting!
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