After playing for MVP and rising to the spotlight, Ukrainian player Oleksandra "manka" Kruspe joined the prestigious G2 organization as part of the all-female team "Oya".
Following her short time in G2 and unexpected exit, we sat down with "manka" to discuss her time on the team, leaving G2 Oya after only two months, her personal life during the war and much more.
Note: This interview was conducted before manka and Aces were signed by ENCE, becoming ENCE Athena.
BLIX: How did you first get involved in competitive CS:GO and what motivated you to pursue a career in it?
manka: To be honest, I just always loved playing the game and was wondering how far I could go if I continued, so that's how it went.
BLIX: Can you tell us about your journey as a professional women's CS:GO player and how you ended up joining G2?
manka: I started playing with MostValuablePlayers after the ESL Impact series was announced. We achieved some great results as a team, almost went to the Valencia LAN, played in the next Impact Closed Qualifiers, etc. After we disbanded, I saw a tweet where zAAz [Zainab Turkie] was looking for players. I decided to text her, not daring to hope for an answer, but eventually passed a test and got a spot on the G2 team.
BLIX: What was your experience like playing for G2 and representing the organization?
manka: It was great, G2 was my first organization and they were amazing! I was shocked when I saw all the support and interest from G2 fans after our team was announced, so it definitely made me much happier.
BLIX: What are the challenges you overcame when you joined G2?
manka: I had some difficulties with communication in English at first, getting used to other ways to practice than before, also switching positions all the time. The biggest personal challenge was when I got a very serious infection right in the middle of the ESL Impact Closed Qualifiers.
My liver was about to fail and I even had to go to the hospital. I was hardly able to sit straight but still played the officials and practiced every day. Overall everything was about setting certain goals and evolving as a player, I got a lot of both good and bad experiences that helped me grow individually.
BLIX: A lot of fans and supporters were confused when you left G2 after only two months, can you tell us what happened?
manka: We played together for almost 6 months, it just wasn't announced, Juliano [Julia Kiran] was AWPing and I had the Entry Fragger role, but then she wanted to switch up, and I'm not a sniper so they needed to find someone to replace.
BLIX: You’re pretty vocal about the situation in Ukraine and tend to raise awareness about the situation there on social media, did the war have any impact on you as a player? If so, how?
manka: I think the war impacted every Ukrainian in a bad way. War is horrible, it's very difficult to understand truly if you didn't experience it. We don't see the line between life and death the same way anymore, we are used to living in the present day only.
Sounds funny, but it helped me understand how important CS is to me. For the first months, I just grinded non-stop all the time except when we were hiding in a shelter, maybe it was my way to forget about the bad things happening around me.
BLIX: You’ve been MIA for around two months now since parting ways with G2, is there anything special you’re working on? If not, what’s next for “manka”?
manka: There is something very cool I'm working on and it will be announced soon.
BLIX: You’ve recently got your bachelor's degree, do you have any life plans outside of CS:GO?
manka: CS is my only life plan! I got a bachelor's degree because I promised my mom I'd get a higher education. Great to understand that now I can devote all the time to the game.
BLIX: What are some of the differences between playing with your previous “amateur” teams and a prestigious organization like G2?
manka: It makes you more responsible in all aspects, what you post online, how you communicate with people, etc. It boosted my confidence but I also felt pressure and some kind of fear sometimes, now I understand it was silly and I should’ve just focused on my strong sides.
BLIX: During your time in G2 you played against some of the best female talents in 9 Pandas Fearless and NAVI Javelins. Do you feel like there’s progress on the tactical aspect of the game for the females?
manka: Yes! CS has its own rules, your gender doesn't matter when you try to understand the game, so I think the tactical aspect of the game in many female teams has improved a lot.
BLIX: You’re pretty experienced in Cash Cup tournaments since you came first three times. What was the key to that success, and will we see you in the upcoming Cash Cup when it's announced?
manka: We just played Cash Cups for fun, to be honest. It was more like a practice, but you also could win some money to pay rent and eat. We didn't have an organization at that moment so it was important for everyone in the team. I'd love to play some more in the future.
BLIX: What’s your opinion on the current structure of female tournaments?
manka: I think ESL should do more slots for the EU region. They did it last tournament, but three slots still isn't enough, because all the best teams in the world are located in Europe and there's no chance for fresh blood on LANs. We'd also love to see some other female tournaments apart from Impact seasons.
BLIX: What are the biggest obstacles female CS:GO players face today?
manka: The only obstacle we face is sexism. I started playing for fun when I was 13 and I remember being bullied every time I talked into the mic just for being a woman. That caused problems with confidence and communication in the future, and I know a lot of girls who have the same trouble. Girls are mostly more emotional, so we can't stand for ourselves and we take criticism close to the heart.
BLIX: What are your thoughts on the growing recognition and support for female players in esports, and how do you envision the future for women in competitive gaming?
manka: It's amazing! It encourages more women into esports, so I hope we'll see a female version of s1mple [Oleksandr Kostyliev] or a team that is strong enough to compete with men one day. The more girls want to try gaming, the more chances there are, so we’re on the right path.
BLIX: Your love and affection for the game is admirable and you even said “I chose CS:GO over my own life”. Tell us about your love for the game and what inspires you to stay committed despite the circumstances.
manka: I said it when we had constant electricity problems in Kyiv, there were times when we didn't have it for 30-50 hours straight. We decided to go to another city that was 30 km away from the war zone, but we had electricity there, even though the city was attacked multiple times per day.
I couldn't imagine what I would do if I didn't play CS. In the beginning, it was a way to escape from reality, mental health issues, and all the negativity around me, but then it became my only desire in life. Even if I'm at the lowest point, I always want to play and become better.
BLIX: Do you have any words for the fans who are waiting to see you on the server again?
manka: I want to thank everyone who supports me and everyone who supports Ukraine! I'll be back on the server very soon, and you'll see a better version of manka.
If you enjoyed our interview with manka, be sure to check out BLIX's earlier interviews on our CS:GO Portal.