Albeit not being included in the RLCS, Asian Rocket League is growing and just as thrilling.
Despite the region’s lack of RLCS inclusion, Asian Rocket League has been quietly building up over the last three years. Home to some of Rocket League’s more familiar faces, here’s everything you need to know about for the often-overlooked continent.
If you’ve ever followed Asian Rocket League, you’ve definitely heard of the Asia Pro League. First run by 1NE eSports before APL Esports was formed to carry on the league, APL was the place for teams to showcase themselves on a wider stage. The first two seasons were dominated by Japan, with the nation being the sole representee in the first two grand finals. However, the third season saw the rise of Saudi Arabia, with Osh-Tekk Warriors taking home the title without losing a single series. OTW have since gone on to make waves in Europe under the Sandrock Gaming banner, most notably finishing second in The European Invitational.
However, the APL’s third season concluded over a year ago. Since then, the top teams have been competing in monthly and weekly tournaments organised by a number of community organisations and figures including APL Esports and Japanese casters sportisgood and Kokken. Currently, APL’s Ketteisen Cup series is the home to the region’s top teams. Although Hargun, Poofy and Kaizen (of Ooga Booga) were able to take home an incredible upset win in the cup’s first iteration, since then it’s been all about Japan once again. ReaLize, Kanra and mikan, playing under Zoomer Remover, have taken home both the second and third cups and have shown no sign of slowing down thanks to their quick passing and incredible mechanical prowess.
By far the most recognisable of Asia’s players, Shogo “ReaLize” Ikeyama made a name for himself with his freestyling montages and appearances in Johnnyboi_i’s 1v1 show matches. Although he’s yet to win an Asia Pro League title, he’s finished in the Grand Final of just about every Asian tournament he’s entered. His antics also managed to catch the eye of Australian stars ZeN and Hawk, who he’s been playing with since last September in a whole host of Oceanic events.
Having spearheaded ReaLize’s Glory Stone roster under 1NE eSports, Yukito “Kanra” Nishikawa took home the APL’s first championship back in 2017. He and ReaLize were accompanied by Thrishernn “Misty” Raaj to Montreal last September for the final stop of the DreamHack Pro Circuit. As the first Asian representatives on an intercontinental stage, they were able to put up a decent fight, keeping TSM’s wins down to just a single goal in all three games and taking two of them to overtime despite the 3-0 scoreline.
Following their Montreal outing, Misty then moved to the UK for university, opening up the possibility of playing with some of Europe’s top talents. Despite not making it to the Rival Series alongside veterans Tylacto and Jwols, he was able to gain some valuable experience before returning to Malaysia due to the Coronavirus pandemic, where he’s been competing under 1NE once again.
However, Asia’s most famous team is certainly Sandrock Gaming. After winning APL and signing with their new org, the Saudi Arabian trio of Ahmad “SENZO” Ayed, Ahmad “Ahmad” Abdullah and Khalid “oKhaliD” Qasim were thrust into the spotlight with the announcement of Johnnyboi_i’s European Invitational, where they took down World Championship runners-up Renault Vitality, European Champions Dignitas and more on the way to a silver-medal finish, taking home $5,000 in the process. oKhaliD has also seen considerable success on the Scottish caster’s stream, winning the Salt Mine World Finals ahead of some of the game’s best 1v1 players.
What’s happening now?
Right now, the Ketteisen Cup is home to the best teams in the region. Run by APL Esports, it has played host to some incredible matchups across its first three iterations, with ReaLize and Kanra being the only two players to feature in every Grand Final. Ooga Booga’s upset win, followed by two disappointing finishes, was one of the most exhilarating matchups Asia has ever seen. The finals take place once every three weeks, with the third cup concluding yesterday with a dominant sweep from Zoomer Remover.
Images courtesy of Dreamhack