Echo Fox has been the talk of the professional Counter-Strike world for all the wrong reasons in the past week.
Playing in ELEAGUE Season 2, Echo Fox had a brutal weekend in Group B play in winning only six rounds in three maps. Echo Fox was playing in a group with three of the top eight teams in the world, but it was still a disappointing performance for the North American squad.
Still, Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir to talk about expectations for the weekend, his affinity for rugby and whether or not there are too many tournaments.
Vince Nairn: Coming into this group, it was you guys and probably three of the seven or eight best teams in the world. How did you look at it coming into what expected to be a tough weekend?
Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir: We really had nothing to lose coming into this, but we did want to test ourselves and see how well we did. We did well against Na’Vi last time we played and Mouz and Flipsid3 the last time we played. They were all top 12 at the time, and NaVi was top five. We did well at that time, and we were prepared on the map we played. It just didn’t go as planned, so it’s tough.
VN: What were the things you were looking to get out of this weekend?
RA: I think it’s more just our preparation in terms of teamwork and stuff like that. I think we have good aim, but at the same time it’s all situational how your aim comes into play. So it’s setting yourself up to put yourself in a position to have an aim duel with somebody, which didn’t happen against VP at all.
VN: You guys have been in kind of an interesting space for the last few months. Lots of roster changes. It seemed like you guys gelled pretty well for a while but have maybe stagnated. How are you guys just trying to navigate yourselves and see where you fit in the NA landscape?
RA: Just gotta keep grinding. That’s all there is to it. You’ve gotta keep playing and working on the little stuff and clean up the stuff you make mistakes on and not make them again. That’s the main thing.
VN: What’s the synergy like, especially with you and Sean having played together before?
RA: I always loved playing with Sean. The one issue is he can’t tell everybody what to do all the time, so we have to learn and be able to not make the same mistakes twice. I think that’s what is costing us. We’re still doing the same stuff we did before, and when you’re hesitating that split second, that’s the second the best team in the world is going to capitalize on you. But I love playing with Sean. Always will. He’s a great teammate and a good friend of mine.
VN: What do you think of the tweaks to ELEAGUE’s format? Fewer days, shorter overall time span. Different format.
RA: ELEAGUE is always great to us. They always do the right things. They’re awesome. I like playing people more than once. It would be cool to play on two maps, which would be fun. But it’s best-of-one and a best-of-three, so at least we get a best-of-three, too. It was just more Counter-Strike last time, which was awesome. I liked playing more of that.
VN: Yeah, it seems like it’s definitely a balance. You guys definitely want to play more matches, but in terms of trying to get everybody’s focus, it seems like it really dragged on last time, too.
RA: For sure, and that’s why it’s better probably for the viewers and stuff, which is cool. You can’t get everything you want, obviously, so you gotta just do what you’re told and play the game.
VN: Where do you kind of fall on the line when it comes to over-saturation and how many events there are and your requirements as a player? Does it weigh on you at all?
RA: Honestly, for the people who do complain about too many events, get a new job, man. Up and comers want it. They play this game all the time and they would kill to play this many events. Back in the day you could barely get an event. Now you can get one a lot of times. If you don’t want to go to an event, don’t go, but it’s probably one to two people inside a team saying they don’t want to go, but more do. It’s mainly, probably peoples’ personal lives, or they’re just feeling tired. But play the game. Be blessed that you’re in this position to be able to get paid to play a video game, something everybody wants to do. If you had to play more events, then do it. It’s awesome. I think it’s a dream and a blessing to be able to do it for free and get paid to play.
VN: Is there a fatigue factor for you at all? If so, how do you balance it out so that you can still end up feeling the way you do?
RA: I think fatigue is more so, if you play in the morning and then you have to wait like six hours, and then you play another one at night, which happened to us at Northern Arena. That’s when you’re more tired. You do get fatigues in a best-of-three, especially with OTs and stuff like that, but you have to stay mentally focused. That’s where your instincts and all the repetitions and practice comes into play. People can say it’s fatigue and stuff like that, but you should still be fundamentally sound enough to make the right plays.
VN: How do you feel about the state of the game in general right now? It seems like so much has happened in a short amount of time
RA: It’s nuts. Honestly, the internet is endless. More people are gonna get on it. More people are gonna see. It’s just gonna continue to grow and grow. And you can see that with all the NBA players involved. It’s already crazy, honestly. For me, it’s a blessing because I’m maybe not in my prime, but I’m definitely I think a top player. I think for the people who put so much into this over the years and it finally paid off for them, I think it’s great.
VN: I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but were you aware of RIck Fox’s background before getting on Echo Fox?
RA: Yeah. I’ve always been a huge sports fan, no matter the sport. Recently I was playing rugby when I took my break from the game, and I came back. It’s cool. Then I signed to Echo Fox and remembered Rick on the Lakers and winning championships with Kobe, stuff like that. I’ve always been a sports fan regardless of gaming, so that’s how i grew up.
VN: How did you get into rugby?
RA: My buddy, I never played before in my life, and my buddy asked if I wanted to go up to Santa Barbara and play for his college, and I said sure. I just walked on with him, started playing rugby and became a starting wing.
VN: What about the game really appealed to you?
RA: It always did appeal to me just watching it, but I was really new to it. I really didn’t watch much of it, but when I started playing it, I gained a lot more respect. Especially, all the work I did in that, it was just crazy. I was in prime shape, and that’s fatigue. That’s body fatigue and it also goes to your mind, too. Counter-Strike is more mental fatigue, and then people started thinking they’re more tired and getting in their own head. But that was, you gotta fight through some shit, and that’s how you were able to push through.
VN: It seems like you’re really health conscious as well. It’s kind of underrated in esports, but has that always been on your mind? Did it become any more of a focus in your career?
RA: I just always did it because I played sports. Health was huge. That’s how my dad raised me, and that’s how I am now. I’ve been lazy recently, but that’s always been huge for me. I started in high school, just working out. I played soccer. I played football, baseball, all through high school. Working out became an addiction for me. I think gamers, it’s not that they’re lazy, but when you first start working out, you worry about how much weight you can bench. That’s everyone’s first worry, and then they’re embarrassed to be seen. And that’s how I was. But you just get past that two weeks or month and break that barrier and you’re fine.
VN: Have you found yourself, not necessarily educating, but encouraging your teammates to do that, too? Because it seems obvious at times the benefits of it.
RA: It helps your mind, helps your body and keeps your heart healthy. It’s only positives as long as you’re not putting anything negative into it. Just find the workout that works for people. I don’t preach it on people, but if people want help, I have no problem giving them help. I’ve done my fair share of helping people in my real life, back in high school and getting them started.
Cover photo courtesy of Turner Sports/ELEAGUE