Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok's skills weren't the only spectacle on display at the League of Legends World Championship quarterfinal between reigning champions SK Telecom T1 and European challengers Misfits. Flashing across the dark arena at the Guangzhou Gymnasium, reflecting in the big screens and off fans' glasses, were large, custom-made LED signs that Chinese fans had brought to show their support.
Three big signs studded with lights hung from the railings, dedicated to SKT and especially to their diminutive jungler Han "Peanut" Wang-ho. But within the crowd were lights for Misfits AD Carry Hans Sama, Faker and even North American juggernaut Team SoloMid.
Chinese fans -- mostly women -- buy these LED signs on Taobao, China's version of Amazon, where companies advertise custom-designed signs for concerts, weddings and birthdays. They choose between hard-backed signs good for holding up and fabric ones suitable for hanging, then submit the language and design, review the results and wait for the cargo to arrive. Some sellers guarantee a finished product within 24 hours. Depending on size, the signs range from 50 to 1,300 yuan, or about $7 to more than $200. (The average Chinese person earns about $939 a month.)
Misfits fan Huang Zhiqing stood for nearly the entirety of the five-game series while holding her sign dedicated to Hans Sama, which featured his name in pink and blue lights with a small crown and a heart. She pointed out that she and a few other like-minded supporters had coordinated their orders to save on shipping.
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"If Misfits make it, I will try to go to Shanghai," she said, referring to the competition's next stop. "Afterwards, I will keep it as a souvenir, and if I meet Hans Sama, I will have him sign it."
Another Hans Sama fan, Peng Jiaojiao, paid about 200 yuan, or nearly $30, for her sign; she originally had wanted to buy a much larger one -- for five times the price -- but couldn't find a place in the stadium to hang it.
CC Jiang, sporting a Peanut headband, was busy untying her sign dedicated to him -- the largest one at the event -- from the railing after the series, as the Chinese security officers barked at her to hurry up. She and nine other friends had banded together to front the 1,300 yuan cost, before they debuted it at the group stage in Wuhan. Now, she was carefully packing it for the Shanghai event.
"If SKT goes, we go," she said with a laugh.
She had been spurred on by the signs for hometown favorite Edward Gaming.
"There were too many EDG signs," she said. "I felt I couldn't let SKT down."
Still, some fans stuck to old-fashioned designs, with signs written hastily in pen on paper supplied by the gamemaker before the series. When the teams tied the series up 2-2, one fan even asked me for a pen so he could add to his sign. That's one thing you can't do with LED.