London Spitfire do the country proud and are Overwatch league champions.
IT was entirely appropriate that when London Spitfire finally clinched the inaugural Overwatch League crown, they did so battling it out on King’s Row – the only map in the game set in the city of London.
The Spitfire team, who had reached the final by crushing the LA 3-1 and 3-0 the previous week, had won the opening best-of-five map series 3-1 against the Philadelphia Fusion this Friday (July 27).
The following day they stormed into a 2-0 lead in front of a sold-out crowd at the 19,000-seat Barclays Centre in New York.
After the match on the third map, the aforementioned King’s Row, went into Overtime, London had one minute to take the first point and complete their incredible journey to becoming champions.
Effectively on home territory, the Spitfire churned through the bewildered Philadelphia defences in mere seconds and lifted the title – and a cheque for $1million to boot.
It was a stunning turnaround for a team that had entered the play-offs with all the conviction of a drunk man trying to talk his way into a nightclub at 1.30am. No one expected them to succeed.
Their early-season promise, which had seen them lift the Stage 1 trophy, had quickly disappeared and the following three stages had seen them playing with an alarming inconsistency.
At times it felt as if Profit (Joon-yeong Park) was carrying the team single-handedly into the top six and a place in the knockout stages.
But come play-off time, sniper specialist Birdring (Ji-hyeok Kim) and tanks Gesture (Jae-hee Hong) and Fury (Jun-ho Kim) returned to top form and the whole team continued that resurgence in the Grand Final.
Gesture and Fury gave Philadelphia’s key damage-dealer Carpe (Jae-hyeok Lee) no time or space to exert his usual influence over proceedings.
And Profit delivered the sort of match-winning display on Saturday night in New York that made a mockery over his non-selection for a starting spot in August’s All-Star team event.
On the opening map, the South Korean youngster claimed a remarkable five final blows in a matter of mere seconds to help London Spitfire clinch the first map.
Playing as cheeky Cockney character Tracer and with London having just 28 seconds left to clinch victory, he first gunned down Fusion’s star healer Neptuno above Point B on the Volskaya Industries map.
Profit then used Tracer’s recall ability to rewind time and pop up behind a bemused Carpe, eliminating his rival with ease.
Then he dropped down onto the point and dismissed Hotba’s Roadhog character with a casual toss of a pulse bomb, before getting final blows on Sado’s Orisa and Poko’s D.Va.
The whole breath-taking sequence of destruction had only lasted a mere 10 seconds but it confirmed Profit as the league’s premier operator. He would go on to win the final MVP award – and deservedly so.
Big players rise to the big occasions and Profit and London certainly did that in the final.
As well as the 19,000 screaming fans in the arena, who had paid an average of $152 for tickets, there were approximately 350,000 people watching on streaming service Twitch.
And American sports network ESPN also screened the final live, as did Disney XD – all clear signs that esports and the Overwatch League have glowing futures.
“This is for London” said Spitfire’s owner Jack Etienne as he lifted the trophy, with a team of South Koreans standing behind him.
Yes, there was a slight irony in the fact the only English person involved in the final, Isaac “Boombox” Charles, had been playing for the defeated Philadelphia Fusion.
But the Spitfire team have won the hearts and minds of the UK’s Overwatch fans with their commitment to the cause. Surely the next step has to be getting them to play some games over in London itself – and maybe sign up a British player or two.
Either way, Spitfire lived up to their team slogan – Aces High. They are top of the Overwatch perch and the fans can’t wait to see them defend their title in Season Two.