Earlier this year, Ram “Brokenshard” Djemal achieved a goal he’d been working towards for years: playing in the top tier of professional League of Legends in North America. But now, only four weeks into his League Championship Series career, Djemal is on the bench yet again. His visa has expired, and he won’t be able to get a new one anytime soon.
Early last year, Danny “Shiphtur” Le became the first League of Legends player to receive an athlete’s visa from the U.S. government, shortly followed by a handful of others—including an entire team of Chinese players. But Djemal’s case highlights the continuing uncertainty professional esports teams still face in securing visas for top international talent.
On June 3, Djemal returned to Israel to resolve his visa issues, telling followers on Twitter he expected the process take “at least” one week. Now, following unspecified complications, his estimated return date one month away, or week nine of the 11 week LCS.
Djemal will be replaced by Kevin “Kez” Jeon, who formerly played on Challenger team Cloud9 Tempest and began as a substitute during week three of the League Championship Series. Djemal’s return to the starting roster seems unlikely, barring a visa miracle.
So far, Complexity hasn’t had much success with Jeon in the jungle. In the four games he’s played with the team, three have ended in defeat. Their only win came from Team Curse, who are currently one game away from last place. As of LCS week four, Complexity sits at the bottom of the standings in the North American LCS, with a 2-8 record.
In a series of Reddit comments, Djemal reached out to his fans:
“Some things are really just out of your control. You can do everything right but when someone just decides its not good enough, you pay the price.”
He continued: “I’ll listen to any offers anyone might have for me. Retirement is a possibility.”
Complexity’s mid laner and Djemal’s teammate, Neil ‘Pr0lly’ Hammad, put to rest any concerns that Djemal was benched due to performance issues:
“[Djemal] is not getting replaced because of performance or attitude. He wasn’t able to get a visa in time to play in the LCS. He’s an amazing jungler, and he was able to carry us through relegation with his play. He taught me a lot and won’t be forgotten.”
Djemal is not the only League of Legends player to have his professional career hindered by a visa. Marcel ‘Dexter’ Feldkamp spent a night in a United States prison when flying in from Germany to play for Counter Logic Gaming. His return to the North American LCS was halted for several weeks, forcing Counter Logic Gaming to reshuffle their roster. Soren ‘Bjergsen’ Bjerg, mid laner for Team Solo Mid, was forced to return to Denmark to renew his visa last split. He now holds a five-year United States work visa.
Almost every international player in the North American LCS has had to return to their home country to renew their visa at some point. This often leaves their team scrambling to find a replacement, and it takes away from crucial practice time. Not only does the player miss out on practice while getting their visa, but he has re-acclimate himself to the team and professional play on his return.
This isn’t the first time Djemal has had his LCS dreams dashed, either. After qualifying for the European League Championship Series in January 2013 with his team DragonBorns, he was moved to a substitute role before the regular season started.
Before qualifying into the North American LCS with his team, Djeamal told the Daily Dot that he was “starving” to play:
“I feel that I’ve put in a lot of effort and gone almost nowhere with it. Winning is everything.”
Complexity will play their first game with Kez on the starting roster against Evil Geniuses this Thursday.