North American star Eugene ‘Pobelter’ Park has won the LCS three times in his career. He’s played 318 games in the league, first joined in 2014, and has represented NA at Worlds three times. Now he’s without a team for 2020.
With another League of Legends World Championship passing by without North American success from the LCS representatives, eyes turned inwards to how the domestic league can be improved on the game’s international stage.
The question of how to improve the LCS as it comes up against superteams from Korea, China, and Europe has long dogged the LA-based league, with teams often turning to import stars from those same regions they’re trying to beat.
After Pobelter, who last played with FlyQuest in LCS 2019 Summer when the team fell to Clutch Gaming 3-1 in the Worlds qualifying gauntlet, heard he would not be playing in the region’s premier league for the first time since 2014, he spoke up.
According to the 23-year-old, who has spent the past six years playing with teams like Evil Geniuses, Immortals, and with championship rosters on CLG and Team Liquid, NA’s “baffling” obsession with importing stars is out of control.
He explained, via a Twitlonger shared on November 25, that he had been dealing with shock, disbelief, frustration, and sadness, and had struggled to come to terms with the fact “teams would pick up players so much worse than me.”
The problem, he said, stems from the fact NA talent like himself, as well as rising stars like Tanner ‘Damonte’ Damonte, were being overlooked simply for the ‘crime’ of being US players, instead of imported players “just playing for a paycheck.”
“I have been very angry,” he said, “both at myself for not playing better last year, and also at the teams who, in my humble opinion, are just making baffling decisions and signed random imports, washed up players, and players who don’t work hard.”
The three-time champion revealed he had fielded calls from multiple teams speaking about a potential spot in the LCS for 2020, who “seemed very interested” in picking him up, before they "essentially ghosted" him.
“I was even willing to accept a pay cut, a tryout, bootcamp, anything to get my foot in the door,” he continued. “I thought I could expect a little bit more given my history of success within NA at least, but there was nothing.”
Pobelter admitted it had taken him a while to accept that the teams were deciding to pickup other imported players like French talent Jérémy ‘Eika’ Valdenaire, instead of him, because he still felt like he was one of the best mid laners in the region.
“It bums me out to read that the mainstream opinion is that I’m ‘good enough for NA’, [but] can’t perform on the international stage,” he said.
“There’s a lot of people that are even just being revisionist, and claiming I never even played well domestically, when I actually played so f*cking good all of Summer 2017, and all of 2018. I don’t even think I’ve hit my ceiling yet.
“I think there's a misconception that ‘veterans’ are a known quantity, and ‘rookies’ have boundless potential. As long as you are willing to put the time in and work hard, as well as stay open-minded, there is no limit to growth in this game.”
The mid laner revealed he had recently watched a YouTube documentary based around OG’s campaign in the 8th and 9th Dota2 Internationals, and specifically pointed to Sébastien ‘Ceb’ Debs, who had been tossing up retirement himself.
“[Ceb] was considering retiring after not having much success for a long, long time, didn’t play competitive, then suddenly he can just have excellent performances in back-to-back Worlds and win?” Pobelter added to the argument.
“And if you think about League, there are players like Khan [SKT’s top laner Kim ‘Khan’ Dong-ha] who was playing for three or four years on LSPL teams without much fanfare. Now he’s one of the best top laners in the world, right?”
Despite all of these thoughts, it’s clear Pobelter has already resigned himself to “watching LCS on the sidelines” for the first time since he was just 17 years old. But failure will not define him, he said.
Instead, he said he wants to take the rejections he’s suffered heading into the LCS 2020 Spring season in his stride. He wants to prove that he earned the three Championship Series rings he boasts from his storied career.
Most of all, he wants to change the public narrative.
“It's not the end because I played badly for one split… it's not even the end if I have a bad year, or a bad couple of years,” he said.
“Maybe [fans] still think I'm a sh*t player. But to me, it will only be the end if I give up because of those failures. I never once got the feeling when playing that ‘this player or this team is just on another level that I can never attain.’
“Until I feel that way, I refuse to give up. Right now, I'm working on my future plans. I think I'll be closely involved with the competitive scene, and will be open to trying out for any team that might want me for Summer, or before then too, I guess.”
For now, however, Pobelter — as well as other NA talents like Damonte, as well as veteran stars like Maurice ‘Amazing’ Stückenschneider — will have to bide their time, with eight of the franchise team’s ten mid lane slots have already been filled.
Soren ‘Bjergsen’ Bjerg, Nicolaj ‘Jensen’ Jensen, Lee ‘Crown’ Min-ho, Yasin ‘Nisqy’ Dinçer, and Tristan ‘PowerOfEvil’ Schrage will all be remaining in the league as starting mid laners for the 2020 season.
They will be joined by new blood in the form of Eika and Australian mid laner Tommy ‘Ryoma’ Le, who are reportedly joining Immortals and 100 Thieves respectively, while last standing North American mid lane talent Greyson ‘Goldenglue’ Gilmer will start for Golden Guardians.
Keep track of all of League of Legends' ongoing news and transfers in the Championship Series with Dexerto's dedicated offseason roster tracker.