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May 31, 2021: Portuguese Pokémon video game championship player Eduardo “EmbC” Cunha was accused of engaging in misogynistic and manipulative behavior in leaked Discord and Twitter direct messages.

April 17, 2022: EmbC released a statement claiming he would keep his distance from the VGC community and that he had no intention of returning to a position of influence in the community.

August 21, 2022: EmbC became the Pokémon world champion.

“It’s insane,” EmbC said in a post-tournament interview with host Anna Prosser. “I’m so happy, I don’t even know how to describe it.”

EmbC swept the 2022 Pokémon VGC Worlds without dropping a set, becoming the first world champion to do so since Ray Rizzo a decade ago. It was the first World Championships in three years and the only VGC championships for Pokémon Sword and Shield.

However, the VGC Masters finals featured two players who were both embroiled in controversy. With his newfound bully pulpit as world champion, EmbC vindicated those who oppose him while also asserting that he has changed for the better.

Two finalists, two controversies

The leaked DMs from last May allegedly showed EmbC blaming his self-harm on others and participating in a group chat where members objectified and demeaned women and non-binary people, among other things.

While EmbC took to Twitter to provide context for many of the leaked messages, he ultimately apologized to the people involved and halted his social media presence. In his statement the next April, he said that, although he didn’t plan on returning to the community, he would still compete at official Pokémon tournaments.

“Pokémon is still a huge part of my life and I hope you understand I simply want to keep playing the game I love,” EmbC said in his statement in April. “If you believe I don’t deserve to enjoy that privilege, I completely understand, I personally have my own conflicts regarding that topic, but I’ve made a decision to keep enjoying this hobby. I will make sure I won’t make any of you uncomfortable with my presence. I just want you all to feel accepted and welcome while playing this game the same way I once felt.”

By all appearances, The Pokémon Company seemed hesitant to highlight EmbC at the 2022 Pokémon VGC Worlds, even though he was not barred from competing. While he was the only player to go undefeated in the Swiss rounds, none of EmbC’s Swiss matches were livestreamed. In fact, he did not appear on stream at all until his quarterfinals match against Naoto “Penguin” Mizobuchi.

Afterward, his post-match interview with Prosser was cut short because his microphone purportedly wasn’t working. Although his microphone was certainly quiet, it was audible to viewers listening to the stream.

The Pokémon Company did not respond to a request for comment prior to the publication of this article.

On the other side of the 2022 Pokémon VGC Worlds finals was Spain’s Guillermo “KastyTP” Castilla Diaz. On Saturday, KastyTP was accused of previously conducting a hate raid on Twitch streamer and fellow Pokémon player Krystal “Krystalolachu” Mackellar, who died earlier this year. KastyTP has yet to publicly respond to the allegations.

Semifinalists James “Jamesspeed1” Baek and Paul “pwny person” Chua were both interviewed on the broadcast after their quarterfinals victories. But KastyTP wasn’t. Likewise, neither EmbC nor KastyTP were interviewed after their semifinals victories.

Numerous members of the London, England, crowd excitedly celebrated KastyTP’s semifinals win, which cemented an all-European finals at Europe’s first Pokémon World Championships. However, others lamented how the players’ respective controversies seemed to overshadow their actual gameplay.

The path to winning the 2022 Pokémon VGC Worlds

After going 7-0 in the Swiss rounds and beating Flavio “Pado” Del Pidio in top 16, EmbC faced 2019’s reigning champion, Penguin. Despite its attack stat being lowered by a burn, EmbC’s Zacian crucially took out Penguin’s Grimmsnarl and Lunala with a pair of Behemoth Blades toward the end of Game 2. From there, EmbC’s Rillaboom finished off Penguin’s Groudon to clinch a 2-0 win.

“I went over all kinds of scenarios in my head while we waited [to play],” EmbC said in his brief post-match interview with Prosser. “Some people wouldn’t have liked to wait that long, but actually I appreciated it a lot, because I was able to go through all kinds of scenarios and think [about] what I would do in each one of them. It helped a lot.”

After a closer 2-1 win against pwny person, EmbC landed in grand finals against KastyTP. EmbC said the crucial play of grand finals came in Game 3. While KastyTP’s Charizard threatened EmbC’s Zacian, EmbC made the call to Behemoth Blade into KastyTP’s Grimmsnarl. The Charizard ended up Protecting, while Zacian knocked out Grimmsnarl.

In the next turn, EmbC’s Zacian and Dynamax Thundurus doubled up on KastyTP’s Gigantamax Charizard, preventing it from landing a single hit after Gigantamaxing. From there, KastyTP was unable to mount a significant enough offense to overcome his deficit, allowing EmbC to win the set 2-1.

“Trusting my ability to flowchart the match-up and know what to do in the end was extremely key,” EmbC said in his post-tournament interview. “I’m just happy I stuck to that.”

EmbC reflects on his past actions

After more than a year of minimal communication with the VGC community, EmbC addressed his prior actions after winning the 2022 Pokémon VGC Worlds. He suggested he’s not the same person he was in the leaked messages from last year.

“I wouldn’t be here without my family, especially my mom,” EmbC said in his post-tournament interview. “[They’ve] been supporting me and always making me a better person, [helping] me develop into a much better human being than I once was and [be] able to stand here proud of my accomplishment despite what I might have done in the past.”

He also took the time to thank his friends and others who stuck by him in spite of his previous behavior.

“Stick to your friends, because those are the ones you will take out of this game,” EmbC said in his post-tournament interview. “It’s not the trophies, it’s not the Pokémon [themselves]. It’s what you learn and the friends you make along the way.”

And yet, even after winning the 2022 Pokémon VGC Worlds, EmbC still seems to have no intention of becoming an influential VGC community member again. In his lone Twitter message after winning, EmbC offered a word of support to those who still want him to stay out of the community.

“Dropping by twitter to thank everyone for the support and kind messages, but also to ask you to please understand those who have not forgiven me,” EmbC tweeted. “No matter what I do, my past actions will never be erased. People may believe I have changed but still not forgive me and that’s fair.”

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