It’s funny how life can change. One minute you’re serving coffee in South Korea, the next you’re living in Los Angeles playing Overwatch for a living with nearly 48,000 Twitter followers.
Such is the story of Jong-Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park. Before he became one of the kings of the Overwatch League, before the married-man meta, he lived what he calls a normal life, working as a manager in a café. And it’s easy to picture, really. I think we’d all be happy to take coffee from SBB.
When Overwatch went into closed beta in October 2015, Saebyeolbe wasn’t a part of it. “But I immediately started playing open beta,” he recalled. “When competitive [mode] came out, I was able to play against some of the good players back then—players that were in MiG Frost, LW Red. Pine was one of them. As I was playing with those good players, I felt like I was better.”
He was, of course. His first team—Team Square—existed entirely online, where his DPS partner was Dong-Jun “Rascal” Kim. Their skill was enough to get noticed. Rascal joined Kongdoo Panthera, while Saebyeolbe joined AIM Arrow. AIM Arrow is a team you likely haven’t heard of before—a team that tried and failed to make it into APEX—but Saebyeolbe wasn’t there for long before being picked up by LuxuryWatch Blue in late 2016.
A more successful team, to be sure, but not without its struggles. “Being a professional player was not as good as I expected,” Saebyeolbe admitted.
In 2017, for the second iteration of the Overwatch World Cup, competition for a spot on the South Korean team was fierce, especially with the first season of the Overwatch League on the horizon. But Saebyeolbe made the cut, and his life soon changed all over again. Just 48 hours before the Overwatch World Cup Top 8 began, it was announced that the entire LW Blue roster and coaching staff would become the Overwatch team representing New York.
The Overwatch World Cup semifinal between South Korea and the United States became a game of legend. “After all the [2017 World Cup] matches were over, my social media skyrocketed,” Saebyeolbe said. “I realized the World Cup holds great influence.”
The 2017 Overwatch World Cup showcased a veritable who’s who of the biggest names in the Overwatch League, proving that it’s where hidden talent can shine. A year later, with more teams joining the league for the 2019 season and more roster spots to fill, it seems like the stakes are higher than ever for many of the players.
Saebyeolbe, though, is just happy to be back. “It feels almost like a dream that I made it into Team Korea again,” he said. “It is such an honor to have my name on the roster. I didn’t expect that I would make it into the team because I am older than the other players.”
Although South Korea is still considered the team to beat, there are more question marks this year than ever before, and Saebyeolbe feels that doubt himself. “I realized Korea may not be the best anymore,” he said. “There are so many good players all over the world through the [competition of the] Overwatch League.”
That said, the World Cup holds a special place in his heart. “Compared to Overwatch League, where there is only a limited number of nationalities, I like the World Cup because it’s more of a festival where everyone can join,” he said. “There are 26 different countries, more players.”
The 2018 World Cup kicks off Friday in Incheon, South Korea. Check out our complete stage preview for schedules, rosters, live-streaming locations, and more. All Overwatch World Cup matches will be broadcast live on ESPN3. Check your local listings for select broadcasts on Disney XD.