With the League of Legends European Championship concluding its 2020 season just last week, comes the end-of-the-split awards for the highest-performing players and coaches.
Team Vitality’s Support player Labros "labrov" Papoutsakis was awarded Rookie of the Split for his dominant performance in the Spring Split. In a chat with Inven Global’s Lara Lunardi, he discussed joining the team, the beginning of his career, and what the change of environment to a first-tier league has been like.
When you joined the league, I got to do some research on your background and was really surprised to see that you have been playing professionally since you were fourteen years old.
Yes, I started out with smaller league tournaments.
Can you tell me a little bit about the jump from playing casually to playing professionally?
It was challenging at first. First of all, when I started playing, I earned very little money, and on top of that, I was in a small league, so my parents were not very supportive. I guess that is kind of normal, right?
My family wanted me to finish school and go to university, stuff like this. I knew I wanted to just play League of Legends.
How did you overcome the doubts of your parents?
It took time and showing them my first professional contract, making them talk to team managers and owners helped them understand things a little bit more, but now they have gotten used to it.
Being a pro gamer is definitely a unique path to follow, and I am sure the concern your family had, like you mentioned, was not unusual. You made it to the LEC rather quickly. Is this what you had envisioned for yourself?
Actually, not really, no. Even though when I was in the national leagues I had people telling me that I would soon show up in the LEC, I still was not very confident in myself. I didn’t win many tournaments in the national leagues, and even though I was confident in my skill, I didn’t expect to break out so soon.
At what point had you received a formal offer to step up from the national league?
After I won the EU Masters last year, I knew I could join a LEC team, but I had promised my parents that I would finish my education first. [laughs]
What was Prime League like for you? Can you give me a detailed picture of your environment, teammates…
I really enjoyed my time at BIG and playing in the Prime League overall, especially last year. I felt everyone in the team was really good, we had a great roster. It was a pleasure working with them. We were very motivated and happy, it was a great environment.
What were the biggest differences you noticed right off the bat when you joined the LEC?
Everyone is more professional. Playing in the LEC feels more like a job, than just playing a regular game, I would say.
And do you like that?
Sometimes, yes. [laughs]
What about the structural changes? It seems to me that Team Vitality takes really good care of their players.
Vitality is a great organization. They help the players with gaming needs, but also with psychological counseling, so it feels very nice to play with them.
What about the shift in the attention you’re getting?
Even though I didn’t play any games on stage [due to the pandemic], I feel like there is a lot more pressure. I get a lot of messages from the fans, which feels very nice. When I played well, fans would send supportive messages.
From what I know, Vitality was not your only option to join the LEC. Why did you decide to go for them?
The roster was very attractive to me, and I really wanted to play with Comp.Another important point is that Vitality did not have any issues with me waiting to finish school. Because of Corona, my final exams were postponed, so I could only start playing around week two or three.
How is your relationship with Comp? You’re both from Greece, right?
Our relationship is really good outside of the game, and a good synergy inside of the game. We talk about all sorts of things!
Do you feel like you’re getting used to the life of a pro player in the LEC then?
Yeah, in the start it was a bit rough, living abroad completely alone for the first time in my life. This is the first time I am away from my parents for more than three months and I have to do a lot on my own, but slowly I get used to it.
What are some of the things you’ve learned living on your own?
That I have to take care of myself… do my laundry and stuff… [laughs] I would say it made me more mature.
A fellow member of BIG Clan, ZaZee, was competing against you for Rookie of the Split. In fact, you defeated him by one point. What do you think of his performance this split?
I think overall he had a really good split. It’s hard for him, he showed more than I did this split. I know he will take this as a lesson for the next year and perform even better.
Why do you think you got awarded Rookie of the Split then?
Hmm. I think I had some really good games, even though I felt like I could have done way more, making all the way to the playoffs. I’m not too happy about our performance, but many people had their eyes on my games, so it was good for me. It’s nice to see people value me highly. It’s good motivation for the upcoming year.
Who was the first person you told the news to?
My parents. My dad was really happy actually, he was praising me a lot, but my mom said just “nice”.
And what are your plans moving forward with your career?
I really want to make it to the World Championship and compete against the best players.
And who do you think will be the most dominating team in Worlds 2020?
I think the Chinese teams. Every year China and Korea become stronger.
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