It’s an IEM tradition for a legendary player to lift the Trophy upon the podium; it signals the start of an incredible competition, one that only ends when the Champions raise it again in absolute victory.
This year it will be Zeus, ex Na’Vi Captain and two-time IEM winner, undertaking the role. Having led an incredible career over the span of a whopping 17 years, we wanted to get to know this Counter-Strike veteran before IEM Katowice later this month!
What was most important to you in the early days of 1.6 and at the beginning of your career?
“The most important thing for me in cs is that it’s a team game. I enjoyed playing together, I liked the way we communicate in the game, help each other. There were a lot of other cool games but it was just individual playing. Playing in a team is the reason I took up cs.”
During the start of your career, did IEM events stand out to you and if so why?
Yes, IEM events stood out to me. Back then they were the most prestigious and the prize pool was big, especially for that time. They’d been always organized at high level and top teams competed there.
Just how important was winning IEM IV Hannover in 2010 to your career and Teammates?
“Winning IEM IV Hannover in 2010 had a great impact on me and my team. It was the first world championship we won and after that we made a winning streak. That victory gave us confidence, we started to believe in ourselves. After that we won three more world championships but still IEM IV Hannover was the most emotional and memorable event for us. I’m very happy we managed to win it, it was really difficult to do. We couldn’t even imagine it so it was important for us.”
If you hadn’t found victory at multiple IEM tournaments during your 1.6 career, do you think you would have been as successful as you were throughout your career in Counter-Strike?
“It’s hard to say. Winning IEM IV Hannover in 2010 gave us a boost to further success so it’s difficult for me to imagine what would have happened if we hadn’t won IEM tournaments.”
Did the increased prize pools over the years ever motivate you more or was the sheer drive to be the greatest the defining factor?
“Speaking about the Major, I didn’t care about money, the prize pool was of no importance for me. I just wanted to win, I wanted to be the first and that desire for victory made me move on. I did everything to fulfill my goal.”
How has IEM impacted both your teammates lives and your own?
“IEM impacted us greatly. It changed our mindset, people stopped treating us the way they used to. We’d always been underdogs, outsiders and thanks to victories at IEM we managed to change it. We realized that we could do and achieve anything. It showed everyone that simple Ukrainian guys can compete and win. It affected our lives a lot. After winning IEM we won other championships, so it gave us a boost. Markeloff became the best player and I was among the 20 best players in 2010.”
Winning which IEM event meant the most to you and your teammates?
“The most important event for us was IEM Season IV as it was the beginning of our further success.”
Did you ever struggle for money until finding victory at IEM events?
“Well, after winning IEM in 2010 it took us two years to get the money we won. So, it didn’t change our status at all.”
What would you have done differently as the leader and captain of NAVI lookingback now?
“The first thing which comes to my mind is the Major final in the USA. We lost it to Brazilians. If I had an opportunity to change anything, I would have done everything to prepare my team psychologically better. We were stronger than that team, we played better but we couldn’t handle our emotional state, we were unstable, that’s what I would have worked on more. I’d done a lot of things differently, to be honest, but that Major would be the first thing to start with.”
What are your fondest memories of victory at IEM events?
“At IEM Season IV our greatest rivals were Fnatic, we played in different groups. We knew they were very strong, they’d already won IEM before and they were defending their title. It was difficult for me to even imagine beating them but I analyzed how they play Inferno and noticed their pattern. I made up a new round which we called IEM. In the final Inferno was the decisive map, we used that round against them and it led us to the victory. I remember it vividly and I’m happy that the IEM round helped us win.”
Who were your greatest rivals looking back when competing at IEM events?
“Our greatest rival had always been team MTw with zonic, ave and others. But the Polish team was an even greater rival for us. We often competed with taz, neo and other Polish players. If you remember, we beat them in 2011 in the final and the next time we lost to them.”
Does your book discuss the challenges you faced starting out as a young Ukranian leader and during the peak of your career with NAVI?
“The book covers my whole path as a cs player, I describe there what challenges I faced at the beginning and throughout my career. It’s a long and difficult path to become champion, you have to move step by step. In the book I tell about important events, show the backstage of esports and share my experience. It can be useful and motivating for young players as I give a lot of advice. I believe it will be interesting and enjoyable for those who want to dedicate their lives to esports.”