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Sunday marks the end of the VALORANT Champions Tour Turkey Stage 1 Challengers closed 1ualifiers, with BBL Esports‘ 3-1 victory over Futbolist in the grand final. Now, it’s time to turn our eyes onto EMEA Stage 1 Challengers, the first big tournament of 2022. SuperMassive Blaze and BBL Esports will both represent the Turkish region. Both are successful organizations with a big following and, as they are competing against one another on the EMEA stage, it’s the perfect time to look at how they got here and what will happen next.

SuperMassive Blaze: from open qualifiers to first place

Having represented Turkey in VCT Stage 3 Masters Berlin in 2021, SuperMassive Blaze became one of the biggest VALORANT teams in the region. The super team started out great but, after Masters, their performance plummeted. This led to the departure of Mehmet “Turko” Özen, Batuhan “russ” Malgaç and Melih “pAura” Karaduran. Due to their declining performance, the team did not start 2022 with an invite to the VCT closed qualifiers and had to fight for a chance on the big stage. This gave Caner “CyderX” Demir, Göktuğ “XiSTOU” Canciğer and Burak “glovee” Yıldırım a chance to prove themselves in the eyes of SMB fans.

“This situation looked really bad, but it turned in our favor,” SuperMassive Blaze coach Berker “gAndhi” Kubat said. “We didn’t even have much time to practice for it since glovee was a late addition to the team. Open qualifiers became practice for us; it even gave us a chance to try out different comps. When open qualifiers were done, we noticed gaps in our gameplay and added new details to our playstyle. This way, open qualifiers got us ready for the closed qualifiers.”

Unsurprisingly, SuperMassive Blaze qualified through the open qualifiers and became one of eight teams battling for the first ticket to EMEA Challengers. This was alongside other fan favorites like Futbolist and BBL Esports. This new roster of SMB did not fail to show their worth in the closed qualifiers. They did not lose a single map until the final; not to BBL and not to Fire Flux Esports. In the end, SMB won their rematch against Fire Flux Esports in the final 3-1 and rose up to be the first representatives of their region. After their victory, teams who placed second through fifth made it to the second closed 1ualifiers. BBL Esports were among these teams and, this time, they were not going to lose their shot.

“We also didn’t have to focus on former rosters since a lot of teams went through a lot of changes, so we focused on challenging ourselves. Our priority was to make minimal mistakes and we succeeded,” gAndhi said about the success of the team and the chance to represent Turkey in EMEA. “We’re so glad to be the winners of the first qualifiers and we will do our best at representing our country on the EMEA stage.”

BBL Esports: clash of the two favorites

It’s no secret that BBL had a tough 2021. Regardless, they entered 2022 with a solid roster, having added Doğukan “QutionerX” Dural and pAura from SMB. After being invited to the first closed qualifiers, many people, especially their fans, considered BBL as a favorite to grab the first ticket to EMEA Challengers alongside Futbolist. Team members catching COVID-19 — during the closed 1ualifiers and losing against SuperMassive Blaze and Galatasaray Esports (then known as 2L8) — was a slap in the face, not just because of the losses but because of the fans’ expectations. Still, their placement was good enough to give them a second shot at appearing in the international space.

This time, the BBL roster was determined not to go down without a fight. After a clean first series against Thunderbolts Gaming, BBL were struck down to the lower bracket by their biggest challenger, Futbolist, 2-0. It was all on the line now for them; losing one series would mean disappointing your fans and showing the world that BBL’s decline from 2021 was carried onto the next year. Fortunately, for them, this only strengthened their resolve as they took down Galakticos, Surreal Esports and Fire Flux Esports to face against Futbolist in the grand final.

The strongest Turkish team in 2021 against the biggest esports organization in the Turkish VALORANT scene, Futbolist and BBL faced each other once again in the finals. Taking the previous 2-0 series into account, the script couldn’t have been written better. With players from both teams stepping up and showing amazing performances, BBL Esports took the series 3-1 and became the second Turkish representatives in EMEA Challengers.

“Our losses against our rivals bonded us stronger together. After our victory in the tough series versus Fire Flux Esports, we were mentally ready against Futbolist in the finals,” BBL’s head coach Berke “Vlad” Kantürk said. “This will be the first international experience for our team after our reconstructing and we’re working hard on improving our tactical versatility.”

Now, expectations are high for BBL Esports and SMB, maybe higher than they were ever before.

These two teams from a very competitive and passionate fanbase have the chance to mark 2022 as their year. Against G2 Esports, Fnatic, Acend, Guild Esports and, most importantly, one another, SuperMassive Blaze and BBL Esports will get the chance to prove themselves worthy, starting on Feb. 11.

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