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Smeb: “I have a younger cousin who wants to be a pro, but I’ve been trying to tell him not to.”

ROX tigers mid laner Lindarang left Thursday's LCK match because of an apparent illness.
ROX tigers mid laner Lindarang left Thursday's League Champions Korea (LCK) match because of an apparent illness.

With the ROX Tigers winning League Champions Korea’s 2016 summer split, they have managed to grab their ticket to the world championship as first seed after constantly being denied the top spot by SK Telecom T1.

One of the star players that rose to the top was the Tigers’ Song “Smeb” Kyung-Ho, making his name known with game-changing plays and finally winning the championship three years after his debut. In an interview with Fomos, Smeb talked more in detail about his struggle before his team’s success.

“I’m very proud of myself for making it through the rough early stages of my career,” he told Fomos. “At the time, the fans were very critical of me, and I was unknown even amongst other professional gamers. I was even told that (Kim “PraY” Jong-In) didn’t even know who I was at the time.”

The Tigers are well known in Korea for having a very bright atmosphere, with teammates often seen laughing and generally having a good time with one another. Smeb said that the secret behind the happy-go-lucky Tigers wasn’t always true.

“Everyone has a great attitude in general, but when I first joined the team, I often clashed with (Kang “GorillA” Beom-Hyun) with in-game issues,” he said. “I did end up backing off later though. Everyone on the team is aware what kind of atmosphere to maintain in order to win, so I think we tend to be understanding of one another.”

Smeb also said that he wasn’t a top laner to begin with when he was still playing with friends, and he had to switch over with his debut with Incredible Miracle in 2013. He was still ambitious, but life didn’t quite make it easy for Smeb.

“When I was still playing with my friends, I was the AD Carry,” he said. “IM only had an open position in top so I switched my role. Back then I was confident that I could be No. 1 in Korea, but it didn’t turn out that way. I struggled for about a year and learned that your solo rank is very important, so I practiced hard until I was at the top.”

With the title of “best top laner in Korea,” Smeb talked more about his past idols in the earlier stages of his career, and how he now measures up to them. Although confident, Smeb said he feels relieved for now.

“I don’t know if I’ve over come (Jang “Looper” Hyeong-Suk and Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-Hwan) but I think I can put up a good fight,” he said. “I do feel both disappointed and relieved that MaRin didn’t make it to worlds. I’m always cautious of him since he’s very good and I could go up against him at any point.”

As he approaches the tournament, Smeb is scouting the competition and pointed out three teams in particular that caught his eye. Two from China, and one from North America.

“I am currently cautious of Edward Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, and Cloud9,” he said. “EDG and RNG in particular have talented Korean players so I have to be careful. If we do end up placing high, I’d like to face EDG.”

Smeb has certainly shown incredible growth over his career, climbing to the top and being able to “shake off hurtful criticism.” However he is also aware just how painful the path to a professional gamer is, and has a story that hits close to home.

“I have a younger cousin who wants to be a pro, but I’ve been trying to tell him not to,” he said. “His will is so strong that I want to be of some help, but I truly want him to reconsider. I know how hard it is to be a pro gamer, so I don’t recommend it. It’s a job that comes with a lot of sacrifice.”