Sibol, the Philippine national esports team powered by Smart, made history after winning the first gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games esports competition, reigning supreme in the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang discipline with a 3-2 comeback win over Indonesia in the finals at the San Juan Arena on Sunday.
It was a tough journey for the Filipino squad. Sibol managed a draw against Thailand to secure a playoff spot. Despite a tough group, which included Indonesia which is considered the strongest team in the tournament, Sibol became the second seed and entered into the lower bracket. Indonesia, on the other hand, topped the group and earned a spot in the upper bracket.
Sibol beat Vietnam in two games in the lower bracket semifinals, before taking down Malaysia to reach the gold medal match.
The two teams opened the series with different plans in mind. Indonesia looked to find picks and snowball from there while Sibol MLBB looked to reach late game with a mix of split pushing pressure. Game 1 was one filled with skirmishes and fights but in the end, one team fight was all it took for the Filipinos to secure the first game of the grand finals.
Indonesia came back and took the series to match point after decisive victories in Games 2 and 3.
Sibol fought back after securing some comforts picks like Lolita as well as Granger. Indonesia took an early lead, but the Philippine team fought back. The tankier composition from Sibol allowed Granger to stay alive and Chou to push other lanes. The pressure created by the Filipinos allowed them to close the game and force a fifth and final game.
Game 5 was the comeback of the Filipino aggression. With momentum from the previous game, Sibol showed a different kind of confidence. One that had the gold medal in their sights. The last game showed the dominance that the Filipinos had shown in the Group Stage and was a strong way to end the series, more importantly, win the gold.
"Honestly scheduling practices were really hard for us but whenever we had the time, we'd prioritize practicing for the 30th SEA Games. We always gave 100% in our practices. It was hard work but today, all the work and time that we put in was very worth it!" said Sibol - Mobile Legends: Bang Bang coach Brian "Panda" Lim.
The 30th Southeast Asian Games marked the first time esports was included in the biennial meet as a medal sport.
"We went through tough times. We really had to go through the eye of a needle to get here. We knew that we will be facing a Goliath in the finals pero pusong pinoy tayo, laban kung laban!" said Sibol - MLBB manager Leo Andrew "Jab" Escutin.
Meanwhile, Sibol will play in the gold match match in the Dota 2 competition.
The team, mainly comprised of Team Adroit, tore through Group B with their only loss coming at the hands of Myanmar on Saturday. The loss put them in a match against the best team from Group A, Vietnam.
Sibol Dota 2 stood strong in the first game of series with Mc Nicholson Villanueva, better known as Mac, leading the charts in damage and gold on his Razor. Vietnam had a formidable composition with the Mirana - Disruptor combo but the Filipino's execution was just better. Sibol closed out the game after over 70-minutes of action.
Game 2 favored Vietnam after a couple of kills early on, but Sibol found their own kills and took control of the game en route to the win.
Sibol Dota 2 will play in the gold medal match on Monday where they will face the winner of the lower bracket finals.