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Q&A: fREAKAZOiD talks Echo Fox, ELEAGUE and North American Counter-Strike

Echo Fox is one of the newer organizations in all of esports. It’s founded by former NBA player Rick Fox and has been slowly expanding its reach in esports during the course of the year.

After first starting a League of Legends team, Counter-Strike wasn’t far behind. Echo Fox has pieced together a roster that hopes to push the top North American teams. Echo Fox, with a roster that finalized earlier this month, was in a difficult Group E of ELEAGUE last week but managed to take a map off Natus Vincere in group play. Slingshot’s Chase “RedShirtKing”” Wassenar had the chance to catch up with Echo Fox’s Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir during the semifinals to talk about Echo Fox, ELEAGUE and the state of North American Counter-Strike.

Chase “RedShirtKing” Wassenar: Hello Internet! This is Chase “RedShirtKing” Wassenar and I am here at the ELEAGUE doing some interviews today. I am joined by Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir. Ryan, thank you so much for spending some time here.

Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

CW: Of course. Now, this is your first major event since you joined Echo Fox. How does this experience compare to those on some of the other teams you’ve played on?

RA: It’s different, obviously, because one team – well, Cloud9 obviously, since I’m not on the team any more – that team had more experience, and now this team doesn’t have as much experience with playing against some of the bigger teams. Obviously, they still played against some of the bigger teams, but [there’s] just a lack of experience, and that just comes with time playing together and also playing more tournaments internationally and in the U.S. as well.

CW: Right. When it comes to that kind of experience, have you seen that just over the course of this ELEAGUE? Because you guys took two maps, including a map on Na’Vi that people weren’t expecting you guys to be able to do. Are you seeing that starting to shine through already, or is it a process that’s going to take some time to really come to fruition?

RA: Definitely a process for us. It’s going to take a lot of time, and that’s just something that we need to understand. It’s not going to be perfect right away. It never is. It’s just going to take some time, a lot of practice, a lot of teamwork. Yes, we did take two maps, but we could have easily won both the Mousesports matches. Obviously the 16-2 is super lopsided on that, but I just think some of the scores don’t really resemble what was happening in the game. I think we do have a bright future. It’s just going to take a lot of time.

CW: Yeah, and that bright future is under this Echo Fox brand. Rick Fox has made a big name for himself as being an owner and being a really hands-on kind of guy. Have you gotten the chance to spend any time with him?

RA: No, not yet. I’m looking forward to meeting him and playing him one-on-one in basketball. He’s got to heal up first though. He just got off of surgery.

CW: Do you have a style: you plan on coming at him underneath the paint, or do you have a 3 you can get on him?

RA: Man, I’m going to break his ankles.

CW: Oh man.

RA: I mean, he’s probably going to work me, but it’d be pretty cool just to see what he’s like. All kidding aside, I wish him a speedy recovery. But yeah, he’d probably go to town on me for sure.

CW: For the record, shots fired, ankles about to be broken.

RA: 100 percent. As long as I break them once, that’s all that matters, you know what I mean?

CW: Absolutely. So, the ELEAGUE is obviously a very different from most of the tournaments you see in the Counter Strike scene. How does this experience measure up to some of those tournaments? Do you think this is going to change the way we view competitive Counter Strike moving forward?

RA: Yeah, I think it was a really great tournament. It was really well ran. Shout out to all of the ELEAGUE people; it was awesome. I think it is going to change Counter Strike. Like I said, even time with the game is just going to keep it growing more and more. It’s like the hot thing, and that’s why you see all these big names like Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal – all these big names investing in esports. It just shows you how much esports are growing, and I think the sky’s the limit for gaming. It’s going to be big.


CW: It’s so cool just to see these things – like, my parents: they were never big into esports, but they see it on TBS and they’re like “Oh my God, that’s insane. This is actually a thing.”

RA: It’s crazy!

CW: That kind of experience is always exciting to see. Now, the North American scene is something that has gotten a lot of scrutiny recently…

RA: That’s something where we’ll always get it though. I mean, that’s just the European’s way of just trashing us. I feel like it’s all in good fun, but if they’re serious about it, then I don’t know what to say about negative people like that. I mean, it’s fine. Let them do their thing. They just hate because they can’t do it themselves, you know?

CW: So you’d say the gap is very overstated then?

RA: I think the gap – I mean, the skill gap as in aim-wise and individual play is definitely…we’re right there neck and neck with them. But when you talk about teamwork and little details inside the game, I think Europeans have an advantage on that. I think one of them is definitely Europeans playing against each other so they have high competition all the time. Sometimes, it’s hard to scrim against Americans because they’re doing stuff that Europeans don’t do teamwork-wise. So, it’s hard to go from North American scrims to playing against the best teams in the world. But the gap is closing. I think Americans are starting to understand what the Europeans are doing and we’re starting to incorporate that into our teams too.

CW: Have you noticed that in terms of what Echo Fox is trying to do and how you guys are seeing your role in the competitive scene to help take those steps forward and elevate yourselves in that way?

RA: Yeah, I think we have a great in-game leader, Sean “sgares” Gares. Obviously. He’s very smart, very bright. He understands the game, and he’s going to help us out with that 100 percent. It’s just going to take time and practice and going over a lot of stuff with each other and starting to understand how we all play together. Just being able to play off each other rather than trying to do it all yourself. I think that’s what was happening this tournament, so I think we need to focus on playing together rather than trying to be a hero.

CW: Absolutely. Teamwork in a game like this is just huge.

RA: It’s massive. It’s everything.

CW: So where does Echo Fox go next? Where do you see this team? What should fans be looking for as you guys continue on?

RA: To all the fans out there, just give us some time. We have a bright future and you guys saw that. We took two maps, one of them being against Na’Vi, one of the best teams in the World. They can say what they want and that they weren’t playing that good, but who cares? We know we can compete with them. Even losing this best-of-three, we know we can compete with these guys. It’s just going to take time and practice and really understanding how we play. That’s what we’re going to focus on, and we all knew that as a team. It just sucks because of how we lost some of the games and how we dug ourselves into a hole and beat ourselves, basically, on certain maps. That was the hardest part. But just looking at the positives, we have a bright future and a lot of good things to take away from this event.