After a nail-biter of a five-map series that ended with a FunPlus Phoenix victory at the Forum Copenhagen in Denmark, Kyrylo "ANGE1" Karasov used his time in the postmatch interview to thank the fan who brought the Ukrainian flag into the arena. He met the fan and draped the blue and yellow banner around his shoulders soon after.
"It meant a lot," ANGE1, who was disappointed that Riot Games would not allow him to bring his own Ukrainian flag onto the stage, told the media after the match. "It felt like I went home."
ANGE1 and the rest of FPX went on a historic run at the VALORANT Champions Tour Masters: Copenhagen, ultimately beating Paper Rex 3-2 in the grand final. Before that they had to go through Guild Esports, DRX, Fnatic and OpTic Gaming in order to make it to the last match of the tournament. FPX, a team that has players from two countries currently at war, had to go through more obstacles than any other team in order to achieve victory.
ANGE1 is draped with the Ukrainian flag after winning Masters: Copenhagen. Photo credit: Riot Games
"They were the one team we didn't want to meet," said Paper Rex coach Alexandre "alecks" Sallé while complimenting the impressive run FPX made. "They had to play the most matches in the tournament. Not to mention they had a sub."
FPX's run through Copenhagen was anything but easy. Their squad played the group stage without one of their players, Dmitry "SUYGETSU" Ilyushin, who had visa issues while traveling from Russia. The European squad had to make up strategies as they went while playing with a substitute for the first part of the tournament.
ANGE1 said that he would have been happy with a top-four finish in this tournament, considering FPX didn't have their full roster. He knew they had the potential to win it all, but he wasn't confident it would actually happen.
Many of the questions FPX and Paper Rex were asked after the grand final revolved around Champions, the last stop in the VALORANT Champions Tour, and how each team plans to prepare for the trip to Istanbul in September. ANGE1 and FPX coach Erik "d00mbr0s" Sandgren believe that they exceeded their own expectations in Copenhagen and they'll be even stronger at Champions.
"I don't think you saw the best of FPX [in Copenhagen]," ANGE1 said. "That's for sure."
This win has an extra special meaning for FPX, who missed out on competing in Reykjavík earlier in the year due to similar travel issues. This was also the first VALORANT Champions Tour event with a live crowd, marking an important moment for VALORANT esports in general.
Ardis "ardiis" Svarenieks holds the Masters trophy as he poses for a photo with a fan. Photo credit: Riot Games
"It felt like the crowd helped us a lot, not in terms of information but in terms of supporting us," ANGE1 said. "It was a really close match."
This is the first opportunity that FPX have had to prove themselves on the international stage. Many other players, including Paper Rex's Benedict "Benkai" Tan and Fnatic's Jake "Boaster" Howlett, said they that they thought FPX was one of the best teams in the world coming into the tournament. The title of best team in the world, however, is still up for grabs, according to the Copenhagen runner-up.
"A team hasn't solidified that with two event wins in a row," Benkai said. "We've never had a team win events back-to-back. No team can call themselves the best in the world. If they win Champions then I'd definitely call them the best team in the world."
ANGE1, sitting confidently in the press area after the match, didn't mince words.
"I think, at this moment, we are the best team in the world," he said. "I think it's hard to prove me wrong."
Lead photo credit: Riot Games