G2 Esports are one of the most well-known gaming organizations in the world. The self-proclaimed “most entertaining esports organization in the world” hosts professional teams in nearly ten different games, including League of Legends, VALORANT, Rainbow Six Siege, and Rocket League.
The organization was founded by former League of Legends professional player Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago, and is best known for its thriving European League of Legends team. Despite their successes across multiple games this year, G2 Esports attracted the most publicity following a social media post by Santiago with controversial figure Andrew Tate. After coming under fire from the public, Santiago doubled-down, preaching that the people had no right to “police his friendships.”
At the time, Riot Games, the creator of both League of Legends and VALORANT, were still determining which teams would enter their partnered leagues (international leagues) for the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) in 2023. While most mainstream organizations were excluded for financial or internal leadership reasons, the negative press garnered by Santiago cost G2 Esports a multi-million dollar deal with Riot Games in their EMEA League.
Left without a franchising spot for VCT 2023, G2 Esports set their eyes on the tier two VALORANT scene: VALORANT Challengers 2023.
What is VALORANT Challengers?
Similar to amateur leagues in other games, the Challengers aims to provide a pathway for non-partnered organizations to compete for a spot in the partnered leagues. Currently, there are three partnered leagues: Americas League, EMEA League, and Pacific League. These three leagues encompass a total of thirty teams that compete at the highest level to be crowned regional and world champions.
The Challenger Leagues, however, are much more expansive. Starting in 2023, there are 21 different Challenger Leagues competing across the three major partnered league regions. The competing Challenger Leagues are as follows:
- North America (NA)
- Latin America North (LATAMN)
- Latin America South (LATAMS)
- Northern Europe
- Southern Europe (Spain, Italy, and Portugal)
- France and Benelux
- Dach (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland)
- Eastern Europe
- South Asia (including India)
- Malaysia and Singapore
- Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong
Each year, the teams from each of the three Challengers territories (Americas, EMEA, and APAC) will compete in Challengers Ascension Tournaments—the formats of these tournaments are still under development—for the opportunity to “ascend” to the international leagues. Only one team from each territory can be promoted, meaning one team will be added to each international league. Further information about VALORANT Challengers can be found on Riot Games’s website here.
G2 Esports 2023
After it was announced that G2 Esports would be offered a spot in VALORANT Challengers, the organization quickly put together the most skilled team they could find using unsigned players from both North America and EMEA.
Their team for 2023 is as follows:
- Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan
- Michael “dapr” Gulino
- Maxim “wippie” Shepelev
- Erik “penny” Penny
- Francis “OXY” Hoang
After both of their star players, Auni “AvovA” Chahade and Óscar “mixwell” Cañellas Colocho, opted to leave the organization to join partnered organization Team Heretics in the EMEA League, G2 were left to completely rebuild their roster. Two of the remaining three players departed to play for Giants, another team in the EMEA League, while the last player was released to explore his options.
Both ShahZam and Gulino were acquired from Sentinels, the most popular North American VALORANT organization, after the organization parted ways with the two in favor or former LOUD and current World Champions pANcada and Sacy, as well as former XSET players zekken and dephh. Both ShahZam and Gulino were members of Sentinels when the team won back-to-back VALORANT Masters tournaments in North America and Reykjavík, Iceland.
Joining the two established names are some of North America’s most underrated players. Both wippie and penny are arriving from Version 1, a top-tier North American VALORANT team, a team where they showed tremendous potential but found very little success. Alongside them, G2 Esports enlisted the help of a successful player from the tier two scene: OXY. In 2022, OXY won four amateur tournaments and came in second in five others. Across multiple amateur teams, OXY proved to be a very reliable and skilled player, earning him a spot on what will be one of the most competitive tier-two teams in 2023.