Afreeca Freecs mid laner Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng likened his new team to the early days of the ROX Tigers in an interview with Fomos’ Park Sang-jin.
“This season’s Afreeca Freecs is made of of six players from six different teams,” he said. “But we all got close very quickly. Our relationships between the players are very good. We’re still working to work on the teamwork in-game, but I think we can do better than the other teams if we work hard. The Tigers two years ago were exactly like this. (Lee “Mowgli” Jae-ha), who’s starting his pro gaming career, is doing his best, and both the head and assistant coach are doing the same.”
KurO talked about how difficult it was to work as a part of a team that was looked down upon by fans and other League Champions Korea teams, as he joined at the tail end of 2014.
“The early days weren’t easy,” he said. “The most difficult thing was the way people looked at us. There were opinions that we were a team of has beens, and that we wouldn’t amount to anything. It hurt my feelings, but it’s not that I didn’t understand. The Tigers didn’t have anything to show for (our work). it was hard to get practice partners because of this perception as well. At first we practiced with Chinese teams or Korean challenger teams because we couldn’t practice with anyone else.”
But KurO and his team would change perceptions with results, placing second in the 2015 League Champions Korea spring split playoffs and making a run to the finals of the League of Legends World Championship. Although initially a ragtag group of players from different places, KurO attributed the success to that diversity.
“The two years with the Tigers were tough, but I have more happy memories,” he said. “There wasn’t a player who was overbearing or forceful. Everyone was personable and kind, so there were no worries of the team atmosphere falling apart. I think it was possible since all of the players all came from different teams. Everyone played their roles well. I also felt that we played a little harder when we faced our old teams. Everyone worked harder to prove that we made the right choice.”
After coming in second to SK Telecom T1 time and again, the ROX Tigers finally took first place of the LCK 2016 summer split, and KurO explained why he couldn’t help but cry on the stage.
“I worked hard for two years, and I thought this might be my last chance,” he said. “The process to the victory was hard as well. When we won I remembered all of my hardships and started crying. I was told many times that I’m ‘always second.’ As the team defied expectations and stood at the top, I was overcome by emotion, mixed with the atmosphere of the stage. I was crying but I was elated. I think it was because I achieved that going through hardship with hard work.”
As he was allowed to negotiate with new teams after his contract with ROX came to an end last November, KurO said before that the fans had convinced him to stay in his home region, but he briefly considered going to North America or Europe before changing his mind.
“I had some concerns about the pay (if I were to stay in Korea), and I was curious about the cultures of other regions,” he said. “I wanted to learn a new language whether it be in North America or Europe. I had someone who wanted to move with me, but that wasn’t easy.”
As the first player to sign with Afreeca during its rebuilding process, KurO confessed to feeling uneasy as he had to see players join his team over time. But he was pleasantly surprised to see some of the players who joined the team around him.
“At first I was concerned about who would join other than myself,” he said. “So I didn’t have high expectations for this season. I just wanted to play my best with no regrets. But I changed my mind as I saw the players who joined the team one by one. Players good enough that made me think, ‘Why would he join our team?’ After I saw the final lineup, I thought that we could do better than I anticipated. If everyone works hard, I thought we could even win the whole LCK tournament.”