It took only a few weeks for Fnatic’s dominance of the professional Counter-Strike world to come to a halt.
A wrist injury to Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer and subsequent loss in the quarterfinals of the MLG Columbus Major in April started a streak of tough results for the team that dominated most of 2015 and the beginning of this year. Olofmeister missed almost two months, but Fnatic has not been able to recapture its form even since Olofmeister returned in June.
ELEAGUE in many ways is a chance for Fnatic to show it can still play at that level everyone has seen, and Slingshot’s Vince Nairn had the chance to catch up with Olofmeister before Friday’s semifinal match against Natus Vincere to talk about his injury, where Fnatic is going and the state of professional Counter-Strike.
Vince Nairn: You guys have played on a lot of big stages for a lot of big prize pools, but how does ELEAGUE compare to a lot of them?
Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer: It’s possibly the longest tournament I have ever been to. That’s a new thing for us, but everything has been really professional. It’s probably been one of my favorite tournaments. I hope to get back, but it’s a really cool tournament.
VN: Not that you guys have ever cared that much about being on live TV because Twitch and streaming have been what matters to esports, but is it cool at all just kind of see this game transcend onto TV?
OK: Of course. It’s really cool to say that I’ve been on American TV. I can say that forever. I don’t know if TV is even gonna be here when I’m old — but I think it’s really cool, and I love seeing the game on television. I think it’s good for the older people to kind of get an understanding of what it is.
VN: Counter-Strike is funny because it’s a game where things change kind of fast. It wasn’t long ago you guys were on top of the world, and since your injury you have been trying to reclaim what you guys had late last year and into this winter. How have you guys tried to put it all back together?
OK: The team, we’re not used to not being in the finals. In Columbus, I think my injury affected that, but other tournaments, we’ve been to semifinals where we should have been to the finals a few times, and I think that affected our confidence. It’s hard when you’re used to winning, and start going out in semifinals. It’s weird to say that, but it takes a hit to your confidence. I don’t know. We’re trying to work as hard as possible on it. The only thing that’s going to get our confidence back is a final appearance or a win. Then I think it’ll be easier from there.
OK: I took the decision at MLG Columbus that I’m not gonna play more because I can’t play like this, and then I went back home and I went to a lot of doctors, to laser therapy. I’ve been to like 20, 30 different places. I’ve done a lot of different things, but nothing has really made it how it was before. But it’s getting more and more playable as things go on. I think the best thing is going to the gym and doing some rehab stuff. It’s not the same as before, but I’m going to be able to get back to how I was before. Right now, I feel like I can play as good as that. I just need to get my confidence back.
VN: It’s funny because GuardiaN said the exact same thing about his injury and not being the same as before. Is something like that scary to think about?
OK: At the start, it affected me mentally. But when I got to a point where I believe 100 percent that I can get back to where I was before, I just need the confidence. It doesn’t affect me that much mentally. Getting that confidence and being more and more relaxed. I just need to grind and it will come back. And it’s coming back. I do more and more stuff as the time goes on.
VN: I’m not sure there’s a way to prove that this would have caused your injury or any injury, really. But there are so many more tournaments than there used to be. Do you think that had any effect on your wrist? Is that bothersome?
OK: I have no idea. Before this happened, I know that pronax had some problems before and I was thinking “That’s never gonna happen to me.” Of course, we play so many tournaments. But at the same time, if we didn’t play so many tournaments, I would probably be, if I didn’t have the injury, I would probably play even more at home. It’s probably a combination of me playing too much and not doing so much training outside of the game. I need to do more physical training.
VN: How do you feel about the state of the game right now? Between professional play, but also some of the shady stuff behind the scenes with skins gambling. Where do you think the game is at right now as a whole?
OK: Right now, I think it’s not in the best situation, the best that it’s been before. But there’s gonna be a break now before the next big event in like a month. There hasn’t been a break like that for a long time. I think it will help the game, and I think people are gonna get tired of there being so many tournaments. I am a believer that we should cut down the amount of tournaments. Na’Vi/Fnatic, I can see them here and in maybe like one week I can see them again, so it’s not that special anymore. Then there’s a lot of shit going on in the scene, but at the same time, it’s really bad but it’s good to have the good guys who point it out like Richard Lewis. I think it’s in not the best shape right now, but I think it will get back there.
VN: Obviously they’re not here this weekend, but even with all the extra tournaments and such, you have not met Luminosity/SK in a major tournament in a while.
OK: They have never won against us in a major. (Laughs). But no, seriously, they are the No. 1 team for sure.
VN: What would it mean to have a chance to play them in the future just from the standpoint of creating new rivalries in what you’re describing as maybe a stale state of the game right now?
OK: That’s a hard question for me to answer. But it’s the same thing with us when we were winning too many tournaments, that’s not good for CS. I don’t think SK has won that many tournaments, but the big ones everyone wants to win, they have won them. I think it would be fun to play against them. I want to play against them. I think they are really good players and for sure the No. 1 team in the world. There is no arguing about that. And also they are good guys. They deserve it.
VN: last one: I know there are a lot of rumors about roster shuffles, and I think your guys’ names have been mentioned a few times. How do you just handle that when you’re in the middle of an important tournament like this?
OK: We have been in this before, and we have heard stuff before. We know what’s going on in our team, and everybody in our team knows what’s going on. We just have to focus on the game.
VN: So it’s not hard…
OK: It’s not difficult. This is not the first time. It was difficult the first time.
Cover photo by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com