It’s already time for the semifinals in the 2019 LoL World Championship. While SKT’s in-game prowess is still considered to be very strong, fans are still nervous because SKT’s the only team from the LCK still in the tournament, and it’s hard to grasp how strong the other semifinalists are.
For the captain of SKT, Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok, where it’s just another day of scrims and practice, he looked the same as ever. Seemingly confused while trying to find his way out of the elevator and fixing his hair, his interview answers were the same as ever; to only look at himself as his greatest foe, not fall into a slump, and that practice makes perfect. Although his answers were pretty standard and no different than how they were in the regular season, as a journalist listening to these answers, it actually brought an eccentric wave of relief.
During the couple hours of free time after his daytime scrims, Faker sat down for a short conversation. Rather than Worlds itself, he talked more about his past and his present self. Although he was a little disappointed that he couldn’t get his favorite drink, tomato juice, the interview had begun.
How are you today? I’ve heard that scrims had resumed.
I feel okay. This is the real beginning. We’re going to be facing G2 after this week’s practice, and all I’m thinking about is becoming better in that short time frame.
You’ve been in Europe for a while. Physically speaking, how do you feel?
I was tired because we had to play our quarterfinals match very early. I’m used to it now, so I’m not tired at all.
As a veteran, did you help out your teammates that came to Worlds for the first time?
My teammates struggled for a bit because we’ve been overseas for a while now, but we’ve all fully adjusted here. In that aspect, our Head Coach helped out a lot, so instead of adding onto the task, I was just working hard on what I needed to do.
You must not have had time to look around Europe. How’s the food?
I didn’t have time to look around Europe. We’re usually always at our hotel because of practice. We usually have Korean food here, and while the quality isn’t as good as back home, it’s not too bad.
Didn’t you say that today’s Kimchi-jjigae (Kimchi Stew) wasn’t that good?
Yup. I mean, it can’t always be good.
You’ve had a long flight over to Europe, so did you bring any books?
I’ve brought like 6 books. I’ve only read two so far, and I’m on my third. I don’t have a lot of time to read here, but I’ve brought pretty light books, so I read when I can.
Let’s talk Worlds. Fans are worried that there’s only one LCK team left at Worlds. While SKT looks really strong, there’s still only one left. As the sole representative for the LCK at Worlds, are you worried about anything in particular?
I’m actually not worried that we’re the only LCK team left at Worlds. My goal isn’t for LCK to win Worlds, but for SKT to win Worlds, so I don’t feel the pressure.
Your next opponent is G2. Did you feel anything special from the DAMWON vs G2 match?
It’s not that different from when we faced G2 the last time. However, I’d hate to lose to them the 2nd time, so I’m motivated to practice even harder.
You’ve been a pro gamer for 7 years already. Fans are worried that compared to the earlier stages of your career, there may not be many opportunities left for you to win Worlds. Compared to your past self, do you sometimes get impatient?
I don’t think I get impatient. I know that there will be less opportunities than before, but looking forward, there will still be more opportunities. It all depends on how I perform, so as long as I do well, there will be more opportunities.
Over time, you’ve went from a rookie to the captain of SKT, so I’d have to assume that your mindset and emotions changes over that time. I think that reflects in-game as well, where you’ve went from just hard carrying a game by yourself, to a style that’s more team-oriented.
I didn’t consciously change myself like that. Because of the changes in the meta, it naturally changed my playstyle as well. My teammates are all currently playing well, and the current Mid lane meta is to play champions that are good at helping your teammates, so I’ve shifted to a more team-oriented playstyle.
What would you say the biggest difference is between the young, rookie version of you and your current self?
I’ve experienced so much up until now. Because of such, I’ve learned how to not fail much better than before. I’ve definitely become more ‘seasoned’ as well. If I was just full of confidence and ambition in my rookie days, I’ve become more calm. It’s as if I’m looking at everything from a 3rd person POV, so I’m able to look at things more whole.
Then what’s the one thing that hasn’t changed for you?
When I’m playing in a match, I always try to play with a lot of confidence. My desire to win has and will never change as well.
Speaking of which, during SKT’s press conference after the quarterfinals, you’ve nudged Teddy to fix his posture, and between the reporters, we thought of it as ‘Faker’s detailed team management’. Do you always take care your teammates in such microscopic aspects as well?
(Laughter) It was more of a joke than me managing my teammates. It’s not like I was disciplining him. During the press conference, game 1 between G2 and DAMWON started, so when Teddy got distracted by that game, I slightly nudged him to silently say “Pay attention to the press conference.”
During that time, I’ve noticed changes in your answers to the questions as well. You’ve mentioned that the title of the ‘GOAT’ now fits you the best. It felt like you’ve answered the same question with more confidence than you have in the past. What changed for you?
Nothing’s changed for me. However, my answer changed because of my career as a pro, so my answer naturally changed along with it. My career now properly reflects of myself being called the ‘GOAT’, and I was objective about my answer.
Other than individual skill, what else is important to be called the ‘GOAT’?
In the pro scene, results are what really matters. Your career will reflect upon the results. No matter how good you may individually be, there’s nothing more important than results. Oh, also, you need to have the qualified mindset of a pro. If you’re a pro, then you need to act like one. As a pro, I feel that you need to know how to look at the whole picture, and even beyond that. That type of stance is what qualifies you to be a pro, and there’s nothing more that I can add to that.
You’ve earned your 100th international win. In your post-game interview, you’ve said that when you physically heard it, the number didn't seem like a lot. How many wins do you consider to be a a lot?
Is it a lot of wins…? I really don’t think about such things. What’s important is to win, so I don’t think about records like the number of kills and wins.
What’s Faker’s ultimate goal?
Right now, it’s winning Worlds. My goal is that if I set a goal for myself, it’s to make that goal come to fruition. In other words… It’s to continue working hard.
If you were to set a more detailed goal, can I presume that it’s to continue winning championships while you’re pro?
It may not be such, but I hope to meet the standards that I set for myself. If I do that, than many wins and championships will follow.
I’ve really become curious. What will happen to Faker after you’ve achieved all your goals and dreams? I can picture yourself reading more or studying for something.
I think that for the life after my pro gamer career ends, I’ll have a lot of time to plan it. When it comes to studying something, if there’s anything that interests me, I’ll be able to do it. I’m open minded about the direction I can take. While I haven’t thought much into it in detail, I’ve kept the thought at bay.
Lastly, there’s a lot of hype behind your next match against G2. Is there anything you’d like to say?
Worlds is almost over. There’s not a lot of matches left, and I really want to make it higher than ever. In the time I have left, I’ll make sure to work my hardest. I really want to beat G2, so I’ll work really hard to beat them. The only team that we’re worried about is no one but ourselves. As long as we refine our strategies and teamplay, I know that we’ll win.
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