BESTIA took part as the sole South American team in the ESL Challenger at DreamHack Atlanta. Following their opening match in the tournament against Monte, their head coach Rodrigo “pino” Manarino talked to BLIX for an interview on the team’s progression throughout 2023, them having to work with Nicolás “NikoM” Miozzi and Roberto “reversive” Themtham as stand-ins, where he views the team is at in regards to South American Counter-Strike and much more.
Playing with stand-ins
Pedro Romero, BLIX: Thank you so much for taking the time and doing this interview. I believe it's the first time in around four years in which you have taken part in a competition in the United States. What's it like returning here and just taking in the entire scene?
Rodrigo "pino" Manarino: The last time we competed here was in 2019 for Pro League Season 10 - Americas. After that, we haven’t been back, so it feels really good [to get back here]. We're really tired because it was a really long trip, but it is good to be in these kinds of events as well since we fought really hard to come here. We don't have a full roster, but we wanted to represent the love for the game as well, so we're really happy to be here and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's match.
BLIX: You mentioned the fact that the team had to bring in two subs for this event. How difficult has it been for the team to prepare amidst all that happened with the constant travel and finding the right level of synergy?
pino: It's really hard because we had some competitions with the main roster, and after that, we had to switch. But it was also really good because even the players who stayed in Argentina were cooperating with me by coaching the players and helping out. We worked as hard as we could, and we took it as a challenge as well. It was nice because we know NikoM [Nicolás Miozzi] and reversive [Roberto Themtham] from before, but it was also really challenging, and we wanted to show everyone what we can do.
BLIX: I understand that with teams having to play so many tournaments, there's not much practice to have. What was the preparation like for the team? Was there not much practice done? Or was the team mostly focusing on just building synergy and stuff like that?
pino: The thing about synergy is that [it was] already there because we know each other very well. But we worked on playing a lot of practice as much as we can, so we can get the synergy in the server. We practiced a lot and its been a long trip [to get here]. I think we're really, really prepared and, in relation to the time we used, I think we're really good.
Looking at BESTIA’s 2023 season
BLIX: Looking at this team's trajectory, you guys played various online tournaments before finally getting to a tournament like ESL Challenger. What was the biggest thing that changed the most for the better in this team throughout this entire year?
pino: We had a really intense start with BESTIA. There was a roster change with Luken [Luca Nadotti] going out and us bringing tomaszin [Tomas Corna] in. We made a really good click as a team because tomaszin brought really good and young energy as well, and he was fitting in Lucas' place really well. So we made it click, we got a couple of finals, we won three or four tournaments, and after the break, we kept winning those regional tournaments. So I think it was tomaszin joining the team that was the big reason for us [with our growth], but I think we haven't reached our peak form yet and we have much more to prove.
BLIX: You guys managed to qualify for this event by winning the South American qualifier. Where do you think the current level is with this team compared to the rest of South America?
pino: I think South America is really even right now. There are really, really good teams like 9z Team. They had recent changes, but they're really good. You got RED Canids who's a really good team as well and you got MIBR, who's playing a lot of international tournaments. I think MIBR is a bit above everyone else, and both FURIA and 9z are working to reach the top again. And after that, it's really, really even. RED Canids and us are the ones that have won most of the tournaments. And then you got Sharks and Imperial, which is a really strong team that won the last big tournament. You got three, four or five teams that are fighting each other to stay at the top so I think it's really even and really competitive.
pino: “I think it was tomaszin joining the team that was the big reason for us [with our growth], but I think we didn't reach our top yet, and we have much more to prove.”
BLIX: You were previously a part of Isurus Gaming and other various teams within South America and Latin America in general. What kind of experience do you take away from the past that you now put into use with BESTIA?
pino: I take everything. In Isurus, I participated in a lot of qualifiers, won a lot of international tournaments, and I kept the core with the captain Noktse [Nicolás Dávila] and deco [Marcos Amato] so I bring a lot of experience. I lived in Brazil for three years, so there's a lot of stuff that happened in terms of learnings and experiences, so I tried to bring everything here because we have a really young squad, and I can give them as much advice as I can to make them better players. They take all the feedback and they're really good in energy. I bring all the experiences in tournaments and also all the failures as well. Whether you win or you lose, and you don't reach an objective, you will learn a lot from that.
BLIX: You mentioned players Noktse. How much of a factor as he brought into the team when it comes to strategy and performance in general?
pino: Noktse brings a lot. He has a tactical mind and is also a really amazing leader and captain. He brings a lot of energy, and he brings leadership as well in the team. In working with him for the last six years, we're really aligned on our thoughts, how we watch and how we see the game. So he brings the direction, he simplifies the game for the players, and he makes a lot of the leadership. Experience is really, really valuable. He's been one of the best captains of the region for the last five years, so it is a privilege.
Looking ahead to the future
BLIX: What do you think is the biggest goal that you want the team to accomplish in Atlanta for this competition?
pino: We want to go as far as we can. We want to play the best game we can, and that will give us the result we will have. So, our mindset right now is playing the best we can. We're going to plug in again, we're going to review, we want to practice, we want to check everything and analyze our game until we know our opponent, and then we want to keep working. We are hard workers, so we just want to show our best. We know it's LAN Counter-Strike, so anything can happen. If you focus on your game and you're present, you can take your chances, so we're focusing on doing as much as we can.
BLIX: Final question: How far or close is this team being the best in South America? Where do you see that gap right now?
pino: I think we're really close. We won several tournaments. We need stability. I think we're a few months away if we do things right, learn from our mistakes and keep working. I think we are really close to being [there]. We have really good opponents as well that push us to be better, but we're not far from that. The only thing that depends is on us and how we take all our learnings and know which actions we take as a team and as an organization in order to reach that objective.