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T1 head coach Bengi on his return to Worlds after 6 seasons: ‘The feeling is really fresh right now’

Dot Esports 10/1/2022 Michael Kelly
© Provided by Dot Esports
© Provided by Dot Esports

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Six long years have passed since Bengi, the legendary former jungler of SK Telecom T1, last competed in a League of Legends World Championship. This season, the three-time Worlds winner returns to the tournament. Bengi is taking up the mantle behind his players, serving as his longtime home organization’s head coach during the season’s most important competitive event.

“Considering the fact that T1 is what it is and the legacy that it’s provided for me, I was a bit nervous, but it was definitely worth a shot,” Bengi told Dot Esports about his new role. 

Just last month, the idea of Bengi serving as the head coach of T1 sounded like a far-and-away dream. The team was fresh off another trip to the LCK grand finals and had locked up Korea’s second seed at the World Championship under former head coach Polt. 

But just days after the team’s grand final loss to Gen.G, T1 CEO Joe Marsh made the “gut decision” to promote Bengi to the head coach position. Marsh cited that Bengi “knows what it takes to win” as the reason for the former champion’s elevation.

And frankly, there’s no better player in League history to win World Championships than Bengi. Although one month before Worlds feels like an inopportune time for a team to try out a new head coach, the tournament is Bengi’s natural element.

Alongside his former teammate (and now pupil) Faker, Bengi won three World Championships between 2013 and 2016. Faker and Bengi are the only two League players in history to each have three World Championships under their belt. No other players have more than two—and they’ve all claimed at least one of those titles with Faker and Bengi as teammates. 

Photo via Riot Games © Provided by Dot Esports Photo via Riot Games

Bengi still believes that despite a change in relationship, he and Faker still have synergy that could propel them to a World Championship. That synergy was at its peak during the 2016 World Championship—the last of Bengi’s career before departing the pro League scene for his mandatory Korean military inscription. 

Facing elimination in the semifinals of Worlds 2016, Bengi was subbed in for SKT ahead of a pivotal fourth game. He subsequently led SKT to victory in one of the greatest come-from-behind victories in professional League history. His now-famous Nidalee pick makes up a small margin of the mythos surrounding the arguably best League match ever played.

Photo via Riot Games © Provided by Dot Esports Photo via Riot Games

Now, with over half a decade separating Bengi from his last appearance at Worlds, “the feeling is really fresh right now,” according to the former jungler. So fresh that Bengi “sometimes thinks [he] could still be a player.”

In the case of 2022 T1, a team with young players across the board (T1’s average player age is just over 20 years old, even with the 26-year-old Faker in the equation), the two greatest players in the franchise’s history believe it to be imperative that their former successes are passed down to the organization’s next generation. 

“We both have won multiple World Championships together, and because we have a reason like that, it’s good to encourage our careers together to other younger players,” Bengi said of Faker. 

And Bengi is no stranger to working with younger players. Last season, he served as the head coach of T1’s Challengers team. He worked alongside players like Mowgli, Mireu, and others who have found coaching or playing jobs in the LCK and beyond.

No former T1 Challengers player has earned as much global recognition as Cloud9 AD carry Berserker. As fate would have it, Bengi and Berserker will have the chance to reunite at Worlds 2022, as Cloud9 and T1 have been placed into the same group during the tournament’s main event.

“Berserker is a really great player,” Bengi said. “I’ve always been thinking that when I coached him on the Challengers team. I always expected him to be a player who could play on a top-tier team, and he actually made it. It’s really good to see him again, and obviously, I wasn’t wrong that he could be a great player.

Bengi will have the opportunity to make his head coaching debut for T1’s main roster against the defending world champions Edward Gaming on Oct. 7. He’ll go up against Berserker and C9 on Oct. 9. 

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