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As Flamengo eSports took its first win at the League of Legends World Championship, the dozen or so fans who followed the team from Brazil to Europe erupted into cheer. One devotee even shed his shirt, something these studio walls haven’t seen before. It’s a fan fervor often associated with Brazilian soccer, which is hardly surprising since Flamengo is the richest and most supported sports club in its native country.
“The people that were cheering for Flamengo in soccer, now they can cheer for us in esports,” said Gabriel Duarte, head of brands and products for Go4it Esports, and manager of the Flamengo eSports team. “The fans are very passionate for Flamenco in every modality, not only in soccer but basketball as well. I think that makes a big noise for the entire world.”
Out of the 25 teams taking part in Worlds this year, Flamengo is the only representative of a traditional sports club. It’s also the lone qualifier of the Circuit Brazilian League of Legends (CBLOL), which the team first joined from the lower league in 2018. As well as support from broader Flamengo sports partners such as Brazilian bank BS2 and travel company Buser, the esports division has signed gaming-specific deals with Samsung, Fusion Energy Drink, and hardware brand RedDragon.
“In Brazil, we have the biggest audience since we’ve joined the CBLOL,” explained Duarte. “We have a very good window to show brands that esports is a safe place to invest, not only for us but all the other teams. They are improving themselves to give brands what they want; brand recall, sales, merchandising.”
While the goal for the team is naturally to advance to the group stage and main event, simply having the chance to practice with international teams (known as scrimming) is hugely advantageous. “I truly believe that we improve ourselves practicing with the European teams especially, because it’s very different from Brazil,” said Duarte. “I think when we practice with the best, we absolutely become better.”
The subject of regional servers will actually make 2020 a troubling year for the CBLOL. Neighboring competition Liga Latinoamérica (LLA) will be heading to Mexico, putting it outside of practice range for Brazil. While the move is necessary to expand the Latin America competition, it showcases the challenges of change in a delicate global esports ecosystem.
“We won’t have any other region to practice with, and we won’t know our actual level mechanically for the game,” said Duarte. “It’s going to be tough to understand what’s our level in international competitions.”
Duarte added that he would also like to see the Brazilian League of Legends invest more in coaching staff, structure, and the players. In addition, he feels it’s time for the region to import more players from overseas, something which helped Europe and North America grow in their earlier years. “But in my opinion, from last year to this year we grew a lot, and I think we can still grow with more investment in this segment.”
The League of Legends World Championship is an annual competition in which the top teams from all 13 global regions for the game compete for the Summoner’s Cup. This year’s event begins in Berlin for the play-in and group stages, moves to Madrid for the semi-finals, and will conclude with the finals in Paris.
The play-in stage features the third seed qualifying teams from Europe, North America, South Korea and the LMS (Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan), the second seed team from Vietnam, as well as regional qualifiers from CIS, Latin America, Turkey, Brazil, Japan, Oceania, and Southeast Asia. Only four of these teams will be able to advance to the group stage.
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