|From Imam's Facebook page|
MANILA--When Salic Imam was given a chance to give thanks to Blacklist International's supporters for their help in the team's quest to give the Philippines its second straight Southeast Asian Games Mobile Legends: Bang Bang tournament gold, the team captain had something to say to Nexplay EVOS coach Naser Ignacio.
"Shoutout nga pala kay 'Dogie' (Ignacio's MLBB in-game name). Ikaw lang yung takot eh," said Imam, popularly known by the IGN "Hadji", during the post-series interview to the delight of Blacklist and Sibol officials present at the Vietnam National Convention Center in Hanoi to witness Blacklist's championship run.
In jest, the English interpreter translated Imam's message as thanking Ignacio "for the 10 percent belief to the team."
While it apparently looked like a compliment of sorts, it was actually more of a shade thrown to Ignacio too.
In a YouTube vlog last month, Ignacio said that despite Blacklist being the reigning MLBB world champs, they would be tagged as underdogs if they are to face Indonesia, which according to him boasts what could be the best "meta", that is, gameplay, in the gold medal round, giving them only a 10 percent chance to score an upset.
Unlike Blacklist, which underwent a qualifying tournament--and interestingly enough beat Nexplay in the finals for the right to become part of Sibol--Indonesia's national MLBB team for the SEA Games was built by recruiting arguably the biggest names in the domestic circuit, RRQ's Rivaldi Fatah, Albert Iskandar, and Calvin, ONIC Indonesia's Calvin Winata, and Ihsan Kusudana of Nexplay's sister team EVOS Legends.
On the other hand, Blacklist did not field in its entire roster from the MPL Philippines Season 9. In fact, Imam, the team captain, is the only player Blacklist retained for its Sibol SEAG campaign.
Blacklist reactivated its longtime 1-2 punch of Jonmar Villaluna and Danerie James Del Rosario, but the team had to give amateur standouts Dominic Soto and Lee Gonzales their first professional contracts to complete its roster in the road to the SEA Games, which for Ignacio is not cohesive enough to take down the Indons.
Ignacio looked poised to get his forecast right when Indonesia took Game 2 of the best-of-five finals and was on track of winning Game 3 too with only Blacklist's main base to be destroyed.
However, a crucial clash win at the Lord area, which saw Indonesia getting wiped out despite taking the Lord, paved the way for Blacklist's comeback to steal Game 3.
Blacklist did not waste time and finished the series in Game 4 after yet another wipe-out, turning the 1-in-10 shot into reality.
When Imam uttered his choice words to Ignacio, the Blacklist and Sibol officials echoed those by chanting "Ten percent! Ten percent!"
For sure, this could simmer the budding Blacklist-Nexplay rivalry once both teams return to domestic play.
For now, both clubs will take a backseat as RSG Philippines and Smart Omega will represent the Philippines in the MLBB Southeast Asia Cup from June 11-19 in Kuala Lumpur.
"Good luck sa inyo at saka galingan niyo," Imam told both RSG PH and Omega on behalf of his Blacklist crew.
Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno