Faker's popularity followed him to Taiwan.
On the 7th of July, in the convention center of Kaohsiung Taiwan, there was a long waiting line in the morning. As the game starts later in the day, I wondered why there were so many fans here already. Soon, I picked up the news that these fans were waiting in line since yesterday for a chance to receive a ticket number; which is used to join a fan meeting with the players of SKT.
On the third day of the 'Red Rift', a day when LPL and LMS clash against each other for the pride of their region, I got a chance to speak with SKT's midlaner, Sanghyeok "Faker" Lee. I was curious on how he thought of the 'Rift Rivals' event, and how he felt when he was welcomed by so many passionate fans in Taiwan.
"Rift Rivals does not feel too different from all the other international tournaments. The concept of this tournament is for teams from LPL, LMS, and LCK to fight each other for their nation's pride. In truth, we already fought each other in the 'World Championships' and MSI. They all share the same idea."
"When I met the Taiwanese fans here, I felt that they are similar to the fans I have back home. There are many female fans here and they are just as passionate as the Korean ones."
I also ran into Faker's family members including his grandmother. At first, I had no idea as I just approached them as I was happy to see another Korean during the event. But as I went over to greet them, the elderly lady responded with, "I am Faker's grandmother." And from the tone of her voice, I was able to tell that she is very proud of Faker.
"My grandmother was very proud of me since long ago. And because Taiwan is relatively close to Korea, all of my family members came here partly to cheer for me, and partly to go sight-seeing. I wasn't able to travel with them because of the tournament - but my family members wasted no time and visited many places(Laughs)."
As the interview continued, teams from LMS and LPL were battling it out on top the stage, representing their regions. Then, I grew curious about how Faker thought of LMS and LPL teams. I also asked him for his opinion on the 'Blue Rift', the heated clash between NA and EU.
"We played 2 games so far and won both of them; so it's kind of hard to tell. LMS teams are having a great showing so far, but I personally don't mind who wins between LPL and LMS. I think the question of which region is stronger will be answered by the results of today's games. And as for EU and NA, I only watched 1 or 2 games for myself. On Last year's 'World Championships', although NA ended up with poorer stats compared to EU, when I actually played against them, I felt that NA teams were a little bit stronger than the EU ones. But then again, this is from a year ago, and we will have to see."
As the rivalry between LPL-LMS and EU-NA is very strong and noticeable, I asked Faker if he belives there is a region that could be considered as LCK's rival. He responded by saying that there really isn't - that there isn't a strong enough region that threatens Korea yet.
Faker has been playing as a professional for almost 5 years now. As I heard the news that Faker has been texting frequently during his streams, I grew curious and asked him an important question.
"I have never dated someone before. The reason I looked at my phone frequently was that my 'solo queue' took too long in finding a game. But now... I do want to go on a date... If I ever have time, I will consider meeting someone."
Although it will be far from today, I was curious in what Faker wanted to do if he ever retires. So I asked him on what non-esports related job he will consider doing if he retires.
"I never really thought about it because I am too focused on what I am doing now. And when I retire, I will definitely work in the e-sports field. But if we count out e-sports, I want to work in a field where it involves both science and people. Somewhere in the lines of working with people's brains."
Faker finalized the interview by thanking the fans from Taiwan for always cheering for him and his team despite their far distance from Korea.
"I just had a fan meeting moments ago. Taiwan packs just as many fans as Korea, and they are all very passionate about the game. I am very thankful that they are constantly cheering for me and my team despite their far distance from Korea."