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Whatever it takes to succeed: A fer story

Fer has become one of the best Counter-Strike players in the world for SK Gaming.
Fer has become one of the best Counter-Strike players in the world for SK Gaming. Photo by Adela Sznajder/DreamHack.

“When I first started to play CS, FalleN and his team were the best in Brazil. And I always want to beat the best. So my goal was to beat FalleN’s team. I tried 10 times, and when I beat them, they invite me. I said No. Now I beat you guys and I’ll beat you guys again. They said ‘are you kidding me?’  I said no, I’m not kidding you and I got off group chat. The second chance they gave me, I said OK.”Fernando “fer” Alvarenga

Fer’s origin story is one of those great anecdotes that manages to be both humorous and insightful. Here was a player who had the skills of a star, the ambition to be the best and cared about nothing more than proving it. After establishing his name in the upper echelons of the game, his ambition to win demanded something greater: to sacrifice his own ego and join the team that had been his benchmark for success. That is fer in a nutshell. He is a player who wants to prove he is the best, a player who has the skill to be the best, and a player who will crush his own pride for the sake of victory. He is a man who will do whatever it takes to win.

That has been the driving force behind fer’s career, and this sense of mission was shared among the various iterations of the Brazilian squad that eventually became the modern-day SK Gaming. Fer’s breakout took place at the MLG X Games Aspen Invitational in January 2015, where he showed himself to be the star of KaBuM.TD. After the event ended, his team received an invite to play in the ESL One Katowice qualifiers. They were understandably excited to participate. But there was one problem: how the hell were they going to get there?

Logistically, their path to Katowice was an ugly pothole-ridden mess. They were already scheduled to play at Clutch Con, which left them stranded in Denver. Clutch Con ended on the night of Feb. 1, 2015, the Major qualifiers started on Feb. 14, and their flight was on Feb. 3. There was only one bus near the convention center; it left at 10:30 a.m. and took five hours to reach the airport in Aspen, far too long in order to board their flight. They couldn’t afford the $700-1,000 to take the ride there by private transportation, and they certainly didn’t have the money to reschedule the tickets. It was a desperate moment. KaBuM.TD was stranded in the middle of an alien town, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity dangling in front of them, and they couldn’t seize it. Their organization was either unwilling or unable to help them. They were hungry for both food and opportunity, and it looked like they would get neither. At that moment, fer told the others he was going to quit if they couldn’t go. After all, what was the point if this was the ceiling of Brazilian Counter-Strike?

In a last ditch attempt, the team ran a donation stream and managed to raise the necessary funds to get to Katowice. From there, the team qualified to the Major and fought its way into the playoffs to get seeding privileges for the next Major.

That’s just one example of the mindset that relentlessly drove fer and his Brazilian cohorts. Every opportunity they could get, they seized with ruthless ambition and pushed forward with unblinking determination. That attitude was mirrored in fer’s attitude as a player and as a teammate. He was willing to practice and make considerable sacrifices to win. In the same sense, he demanded the same commitment from his teammates. He was willing to give them as much time as he could to prove they could perform at the same level. But if they couldn’t, fer and the team would cut them off and get a new player. Because of that, a relative unknown named Marcelo “coldzera” David eventually joined the team.

Coldzera quickly proved himself to be the best player on the team with his consistency and talent. He far exceeded expectations, and soon the team started to build around coldzera. Where many other players would have resisted the notion of being overshadowed by an upstart, fer acceded to playing second fiddle. Coldzera was an amazing player, someone who grew stronger each day, and if that was what the team needed to succeed, fer would take a step back. That willingness to give up priority for the betterment of the team arose again when the team’s identity fully formed in the early parts of 2016. Coldzera and Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo becoming the stars of the team, and in that squad fer was the third option. Denied prized positions the regular stars enjoyed, he nevertheless found niche aggressive roles to complement and play around Coldzera and FalleN.

His dedication paid off. Luminosity eventually became the best team in the world with its victory at the MLG Columbus Major in April 2016. At the end of the finals, the others stood around in a post-celebration haze. Fer alone stayed seated as he stared at the victory monitor on his screen. He broke into tears as the realization of what he and his team had done to make it all possible. That roster then owned the next four months, culminating in another Major victory at Cologne. After that Major, fer was sidelined as he needed to go through nose and ear surgery: hearing in one ear had diminished, and he was at risk of developing a tumor. He had put it off for months as his team needed him to win, but with the Major over he could finally take care of it.

By the end of 2016, SK had changed players again, this time removing Lincoln “fnx” Lau for Joao “felps” Vasconcellos. It was an ill-timed move as under Valve rules, felps was ineligible to play with them for the ELEAGUE Major, so Ricardo “fox” Pacheco stood in. At that point, we finally got to see how much fer had restrained himself the entire year. It turned out that standing in the background didn’t blunt his skills whatsoever. He was a beast, a battering ram, a high speed train who crushed his enemies underfoot. At that event, fer was the best player on SK. The sheer amount of aggression, impact and consistency he put out game after game was the driving force behind SK’s performance to reach the semifinals of that Major.

Fer didn’t stop there. He showed another shock and awe performance at DreamHack Las Vegas, where SK reached the finals. Coldzera was the best player at the event, but fer stood right beside him, and you could argue he was the more important player in their playoff run.

The optimistic run at Vegas soon gave way to frustration. SK struggled as it tried to mold a new identity, structure and play style that could accommodate the new strengths and weaknesses of the team. Throughout that time period, fer continued to be one of the shining spots for the team. It all started to come together at the Summit, when coldzera was the superstar of the team and fer was the second star. The disparate styles of the two players meant no overlap between the two roles, meaning both players could play at their maximum potential. If fer was on any other team, he could have easily been the superstar based on his showing there.

That was further confirmed at the ECS Season 3 Finals, where fer had an ascendant performance and was the clear MVP of the tournament. It was a tournament where any individually skilled player would struggle to stand out. It was stacked with talent that deserved a spot on the list of all time greats (and many of the players were in form for that event), players such Kenny “KennyS” Schrub, Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz, Nikola “NiKo” Kovac, Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Coldzera. Among all of that talent, fer outshined them all. In the final map of the tournament, he devastated FaZe Clan’s CT-side on Train and was the biggest reason for SK’s victory in the finals. Unsurprisingly, he won the MVP award for the tournament.

Fer now stands reinvigorated as one of the star players on one of the best teams in the world. SK is one of the favorites to win the PGL Krakow Major, in large part thanks to fer’s unyielding focus. In order to get here, he overcame many obstacles both professional and personal. Fer initially proved his skill by defeating FalleN’s team. From there he went hungry, moved to a new country, killed his own ego to help SK succeed, risked his own health to continue winning more tournaments, and acquiesced to new arrivals for the sake of team harmony. Now fer stands atop the world. He is, without the shadow of a doubt, one of the world’s best players and one of SK’s primary pillars in their quest to defeat the best the world has to offer.

I will end it all with a quote from the man himself. When the fever pitch of hate was at its highest, when SK had kicked fnx and the community started to resent the Brazilians, fer had this to say:

“So you don’t need to like what we do. You don’t need to support. You don’t need to cheer. You don’t need to like our pages. Just respect us. We’re not here on vacation.”

Cover photo by Adela Sznajder/DreamHack

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