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How the War Initiated by the Russian Federation Against Ukraine Impacted Esportsby@ukrcsgo

How the War Initiated by the Russian Federation Against Ukraine Impacted Esports

by StanislavMay 31st, 2022
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Sergey "muR" Gres is the captain of the Ukrainian LeoGaming team in CS:GO. He tells about the psychological state of the players and the success of the team. Gres: "Every Ukrainian member of our team experienced a lot of psychological issues at the beginning of the war. Every person was busy with their own tasks and issues while trying to figure out what would happen tomorrow.” In March, LeoGaming decided to update its roster and eliminated all Russian players while replacing Amir "fobeNash" Abdulmedzhidov and Alexey "Maha" Makhinz999"
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Such things as missed tournaments disrupted training sessions and the constant threat of shelling are integral elements of the new reality for Ukrainian esports players.


In an interview for UA.NEWS, the captain of the Ukrainian LeoGaming esports team in CS:GO Sergey "muR" Gres told about the ways that full-scale aggression of the Russian Federation affected the condition of the players and the success of the team. He also told many interesting things about the support of the international esports community, the replacement of Russian players, and the plans of the team for 2022.


First of all, esports always positioned itself outside politics, but a new round of Russian aggression against Ukraine has changed everything. Already today, the organizers of international tournaments are suspending Russian teams and terminating all cooperation agreements with the entities from the Russian Federation. How did LeoGaming survive the beginning of a full-scale war? How did it affect the psychological state of the players and the success of the team?


Sergey Gres, "First of all, every Ukrainian member of our team experienced a lot of psychological issues at the beginning of the war. Since February 24, our team members have not played the game for about a month. They had a lot of other things to do. Every person was busy with their own tasks and issues while trying to figure out what would happen tomorrow. Do not forget that when you just watch the news with all those scary videos of missile strikes, you are already frightened and scared. You open the news feed in just three days to read about missile attacks in Obolon'. And you can only think about what will happen next. Therefore, it was difficult to focus on anything, there was some kind of confusion.

We have received enormous support from our foreign colleagues. Amir [Amir Abdulmejidov, ex-member of the LeoGaming team] from Russia, supported us. He also condemned Russian aggression. Fenny from Estonia [Adrian Korolev from LeoGaming] shares the very same opinion.”


How did the international esports community perceive the war in Ukraine?

Sergey Gres, "The entire world condemned the actions of the Russian Federation. I would like to express my utmost respect to our Polish brothers. They always post a lot of information about the situation in Ukraine, support us, raise funds for Ukrainian refugees, organize housing, and help with meals.

There were many examples of dedicated support in the esports community. For example, the Kinguin organization from Poland has placed Iska [Yaroslav Isakov from Ukraine] on its esports base in Poland. He is a Ukrainian player who previously played for the British team Into the Breach. They provided him with a computer, housing, and a place to play. I want to thank the people of Poland for such hospitality and help in challenging times.”



Intense shelling, frequent air alerts, as well as power and communication outages take place in many cities of the country. How did such an unstable situation affect the technical side of the team? What has changed in the training and preparation of the team for the competition?


Sergey Gres, "It has become more difficult to organize training sessions. Many players suffer from the lack of power or Internet. Whenever it happens, it means that the Russians have damaged something again. We just lose one day of training because of the shelling. It happens because they cannot be patient and solve everything in a humane way.”



Did LeoGaming have to refuse to participate in any tournaments?


Sergey Gres, "Before the outbreak of a full-scale war, we played in the ESEA League Advanced, but due to the hostilities, we were unable to complete this tournament. We also had no chance to show our real level in the Phonex League competitions. We were not really able to play, so we barely managed to take the second place. No doubt, our team could have refused to join this tournament, but we decided not to lose this opportunity at the very first stage.

LeoGaming also missed many different qualifiers, including Major qualifiers because of the war. But we still have another six months to train and prepare for the next tournaments.”


In March, the LeoGaming team decided to update its roster and eliminated all Russian players. Mikhail "Malkiss" Shulga and Igor "fobeN" Dotsenko joined the team while replacing Amir "eightz999" Abdulmedzhidov and Alexey "Maha" Makhinich. How did such substitutions affect the team? How is the adaptation of inexperienced players going?


Sergey Gres, "We have known Misha and Igor for an exceptionally long time. It was not so difficult for us to play, because we often played together at different Ukrainian tournaments before. We played together at the Ukrainian Championship and reached the finals with them. Therefore, the adaptation is going well, the atmosphere is combative, and we are ready to show what Ukraine is capable of.”


How did the substitution affect the style of play and tactics of the team?


Sergey Gres, "Misha Malkiss is a sniper in our team. This is always a significant role in the global component of the game. We have to change several moments for him so that he is comfortable. Igor "fobeN" was playing as an entry, so, we decided to save his role in LeoGaming.”


LeoGaming has already had a number of successful performances with the new line-up, taking second place in the European Phoenix League tournament and beating the Polish HONORIS team in the new ESEA League season. Even though, this team has such strong Counter-Strike legends as Neo and Taz. Does this indicate that the team has already managed to find a proper way to play together?


Sergey Gres, "I won't be too optimistic and say that we have already found it because there are quite a few points that should be corrected.

Talking about the victory over HONORIS. Such legends of the CS as Neo and Taz are convenient rivals for us. I would say that they are playing a slightly outdated version of Counter-Strike. Two matches were enough for me to understand how they play, prepare for the confrontation, and draft a game plan. Even though the HONORIS team is a simple opponent in terms of the game, they have experienced players who make decisions in given situations much better than we do. However, we are the winners in the end.”


The LeoGaming team finished the 40th season in the ESEA League (Advanced) tournament in the 80th position. What do you expect from the 41st season of the ESEA League?


Sergey Gres, "Keeping in mind that we have two inexperienced players (40% of the team has changed), we need to build a completely new structure of the game, and an understanding of how things should happen. Our newcomers have to understand the logic of the captain, and the captain has to understand the logic of the players. We have to come to a consensus within the game.

At the moment we are focused on the quality of our game, and not on a specific place in a particular tournament. Of course, we want to improve our results.

In addition, we plan to hold within the season, gain experience against strong teams, correct mistakes for this season and demonstrate fully prepared material on six maps next year.”


What other tournaments does LeoGaming plan to participate in this year?


Sergey Gres, "Keeping in mind that we don't have enough time to get used to the maps, and to learn different positions in such a brief period of time, we simply can't talk about reaching the playoffs of the ESEA League, not to mention reaching the top league.”