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The first thing that stood out when walking into Barcelona, Spain’s Palau Sant Jordi arena was the sound of 257 Karmine Corp fans screaming over the almost 15,000 other attendees there to support streamer and caster Ibai “Ibai” Llanos’ new League of Legends team. They cheered with or without megaphones, leading 23-year-old fan Sara Salcedo to wonder how it was possible for so few people to overcome thousands of others.

“All this noise comes from the French fans?” she asked. “How can it be that there are so few of them and they sound in the whole stadium?”

That is simply the power of Karmine Crop’s fan association, Le Blue Wall. They were in charge of distributing tickets among fans, so they all gathered together to make their presence known at the event. Such dedication is an example of what makes them one of Europe’s largest esports fanbases.

Anton Clauzier, president of the organization, said his fellow fans could generate so much noise because they were that excited to see their team play — especially after KC’s high-profile pickup of veteran League of Legends European Championship bot laner Martin “Rekkles” Larsson.

“Karmine Corp had a great offseason,” Clauzier said. “No one expected Rekkles on our team.”

With such star power at the ready, Clauzier expressed very specific expectations for how Karmine Corp would handle Ibai during the show match.

“We expect KC to beat Ibai 2-0 in two games of 25 minutes each,” Clauzier said.

On the other side of the stadium, some Ibai supporters had a similar feeling. They wanted their new team to put forward their best effort, even if they didn’t win. Besides, the event was a good chance to bring esports fans together in person after so many were pushed online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And for fans like Alex “Upset Catalan” Hernández, their support was a matter of national pride.

“I support Ibai because we can’t support France,” Upset Catalan said. “Although, I expect to lose 2-0 against Karmine Corp. They are better on paper.”

With excitement, Ibai and Spanish footballer Gerard Piqué opened the event by revealing the name of their League of Legends team: KOI. Named for the myth where koi fish are turned into dragons as a reward for swimming up a waterfall’s current, the team’s perseverance was backed by sponsors including Finetwork, Disney+ and Cupra.

Then, the team showed off their content creators. This included Juan Sebastián “Juansguarnizo” Guarnizo, one of the biggest streamers in Latin America, who made a surprise appearance. The biggest ovation, however, went to Knekro.

After the presentation of the streamers, KOI finally presented the members of their League of Legends team as the showmatch got underway. All of Europe had their eyes on the event, with Game 1 reaching 471 thousand viewers, putting it above the third most-viewed game during the 2021 LEC summer split.

Swimming up stream

Game 1 started with Karmine Corp showing early dominance, with Le Blue Wall applauding and shouting for every success that they earned a kill, destroyed a tower or claimed a scuttle crab in the river. However, KOI turned the game around in one move and evened the scores when the Spanish team took a fight from them while down on gold.

While pushing a wave into Karmine Corp’s inner bot tower, KOI bot laner Rafa “Rafitta” Ayllón Zapata caught support Jules “Hantera” Bourgeois trying to flank in the jungle and kicked off a huge fight. Players from both teams teleported in to help, but KOI came out of the chaos in control. For their efforts, they broke into Karmine Corp’s base and took the gold lead.

The crowd went crazy and a war started between the fans of both teams to see who could cheer the most for their side. But, even when KOI succeeded, French fans could be heard commenting about how well they did during the teamfight. Le Blue Wall even stood up to cheer for the opposing team.

Spanish fans celebrated as they won a second close teamfight and KOI closed out the game.

As fans waited for Game 2 to start, the crowd created a game on the spot, despite speaking different languages. The Spanish fans, cheering for KOI in the higher seats, started throwing popcorn down to the French fans below to catch in their mouths. It was a simple way to kill time between games, but it showed the friendly rivalry growing between two teams and their fans.

Map 2 was a clear stomp from Karmine Corp that silenced the stands, and only Le Blue Wall cheered when it ended. In only 24 minutes, with KC in control the whole way, the score was tied 1-1. Only the decisive Game 3 remained.

In between Maps 2 and 3, KOI tried to hype up their side by announcing their entry into professional VALORANT. Meanwhile, the French fans started to shout all at once, reciting cheers like “’Karmine’ clap, clap, clap, clap,” while sometimes changing Karmine for the name of a player (usually Rekkles).

When the game began, Karmine Corp started off in the lead again. But, like the first map, down by a massive 8k gold this time, KOI came back and evened things up.

It all fell apart for KC when KOI support Daniel “seaz” Binderhofer split the enemy around the Baron pit with a Nami ult, driving mid laner Lucas “Saken” Fayard’s Syndra right into the waiting arms of Jørgen “Hatrixx” Elgåen’s Yone. Two more quick kills followed, and KOI ultimately secured the buff for themselves.

A few minutes later, someone from the audience with a megaphone started cheering “Karmine, karmine, tes supporters son là” (“Karmine, Karmine, your fans are here,” in French), and this persisted throughout the rest of the match.

From there, the stands stayed wild and it was hard to even hear the commentators. KOI fans cheered with the surprise possibility of a comeback and Karmine Corp fans cheered to lift their team’s spirit.

After a very close rest of the game, KOI secured the dragon soul to give them the push needed to defeat Karmine Corp 2-1 in Rekkles’ debut with his new team. Despite the loss, the French fans didn’t let up and started to clap for the Spanish fans, as if to congratulate them.

‘See you in Paris’

With the match over, KOI fans were full of hype. They won big in their first year competing. At the same time, Le Blue Wall members complimented the great mentality of Ibai’s team, making it clear they would be great rivals to beat the next time they faced off. The French fans waved goodbye to the Spanish fans saying, “We are waiting for you in Paris for the rematch.”

Before the crowd left, Spanish fans were buzzing about what an experience the showmatch had been. Alvaro de Juanes, a Spanish fan from Alicante, commented about how staff at the venue kept things in control despite the disorganization that can sometimes come with COVID-19 hanging over an event.

“We have a lot of hype for the next year,” de Juanes said. “We really liked the T-shirt and we did not expect the surprise of the VALORANT team. It has been a day to remember.”

As everyone cleared out of the Palau Sant Jordi, the Karmine Corp fans were cheering their team on until the players and staff left. The players took pictures with the fans and even Rekkles himself thanked them for their support. Karmine Corp may not have won that series, but there was another waiting for them in Paris.