MANILA - When GrindSky Eris won their gold medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, their head tactician John Eric "Recmeister" Peña was left behind in Manila.
National esports team Sibol only granted their squad six slots to fly to Vietnam, Recmeister told ABS-CBN News, saying it was a personal choice to stay, with sixth man Angel “Angelailaila” Lozada taking the last slot.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, paired with foresight in case anyone gets sick, factored in the decision to stay in the Philippines.
“Ang available lang na slots for Sibol is six slots lang, and we’ve decided na ibigay na lang ‘yon sa 6th man, kasi if may mawala sa isang player, kapag may nagkasakit like ‘yung nag-allergy si Ray Ray [Christine Natividad] hindi na makakapag-perform. DQ na, sayang. So I think na mas valuable na bigyan ng slot ang 6th man kasi they will still function without a coach,” the coach said said.
GrindSky tried to request for an additional slot from Sibol to fly to Hanoi, but the organization declined, he added.
With Recmeister absent physically, the team had to resort in taking voice calls on Messenger or Discord before the drafting phase of every game started.
With their familiarity of the teams, as the reigning champs of Southeast Asia Esports Championship 2021 Wild Rift Women’s Tournament, they were at an advantage – save for having their coach left behind.
Natividad in a separate interview with ABS-CBN News shared that they had to call their coach before every game and take notes of which champion to pick and ban a piece of paper.
Other teams had their coaches and whiteboards with them, which Natividad said put them at a disadvantage.
“Mahirap pa rin po. Ang gagawin namin nasa hindi pa kami umaakyat ng stage, tinatawagan po namin siya. Tapos alam na niya po ang kalaban. Sasabihin niya sa’min kung ano ang bans and picks namin. Ang mahirap lang doon pag na-counter siya with the drafting na ginawa ng kalaban na hindi namin inanticipate kaya kami walang data, inililista lang namin,” she said.
“Nainggit nga kami kasi ‘yong coach nila naka-whiteboard tapos kami ‘yung pinilas na papel sa notebook. Tapos after game tumatawag na siya [coach]."
Charize "Yugen" Doble and Gia “Jeeya” Llanes took the reins when their opponents find ways to counter their ideal draft and counter picks. .
The team also factored in the emotional turmoil of not having a coach to comfort them when they commit errors.
Now, the band of girls cemented their place in the history of Southeast Asian Wild Rift, after bagging the gold in the biennial tilt, and the first for the said title.
Peña admitted he wanted to be there physically for his team. But added that that Lozada deserved to be there in Vietnam more than he did.
"Although siyempre gusto ko rin naman, pero sayang. Kung nabigyan sanang 7 slots. Para sa'kin personally. Pero kung tatanungin niyo ko, kung babaguhin ko hindi."
In fact, the situation he said allowed his players to step up.
"Siyempre, doon sa mga moment na kailangang mag-step up sila, nag-step up sila. Like sobrang madalang mo lang makita na 'yung players will play at their best nang sabay-sabay. And nakita ko 'yon especially sa Grand Finals... Parang sobrang nakaka-proud na ang lahat ng pinag-hirapan niyo," he said.