Great players have a story to tell, but there's something Counter Strike, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Rocket League all have in common: They all have a story about the meteoric rise of a French player — the French Phenomenons.
Rainbow 6: Stéphane “Shaiiko” Lebleu
One of the key players in the entire history of competitive Rainbow Six: Siege has one of the most astonishing stories in the scene. To understand it fully, we need to go back to 2017, after the Six Invitational, the first world tournament that marked the end of Year 1. A new season began following the competition, featuring three Pro League tournaments (Seasons 4, 5, and 6), concluding with the Six Invitational.
Before delving into the story of Shaiiko, we need to understand the other side of the narrative. In season 6, the PENTA organization would continue to thrive alongside its star player Niclas "Pengu" Mouritzen, going on to win two more Pro League tournaments in Katowice (Season 4) and Frankfurt (Season 5). The organization entered the third edition of Pro League in the year with great confidence and were expected to secure the title again. But what about Shaiiko?
The French player was yet to conquer the R6 world, having only participated in minor tournaments like qualifiers, Coupe de France 2017, and Gamers Assembly 2017. Until he was invited to join BeGenius, where he competed in Challengers League Season 5 - 2017, where the two top teams would get the chance to face the bottom two Pro League teams, contending for a spot in the main regional competition. While we lack statistical records from that time, we know BeGenius secured their Pro League spot almost flawlessly— winning 5 Bo3 matches (across both Challenger and Relegations) and losing only one map.
In Pro League Season 6, Shaiiko and Pengu crossed paths in the first match of the first phase, with PENTA securing their place in the winners' final in the first phase after a 2-1 victory. But where does the controversy lie? Why mention the Shaiiko and Pengu clash?
At the end of the duel, the BeGenius team was disqualified, and the French player was banned from competitive play for two years due to the use of macros. In a statement, which has since been deleted, ESL said: "Our anticheat software MOSS found evidence that across the match duration (over 2 hours), the player pressed the sequence '4 4 4' 47 times, and '4 4 4 4 4' 24 times, with around 120 milliseconds delay between each time the key '4' was pressed down. The deviation from these 120 ms was 4 to 8 ms. [...] By itself, pressing a key at this speed is not inhuman, however pressing a key sequence this many times with such small deviations is impossible.”
We know that the complaint came from PENTA because the claim was made during the match (something only the teams can do), and a portion of the community believes that the main instigator of the protest was the star Pengu.
At the conclusion of his off-period, Shaiiko returned to the professional scene with Team BDS, securing promotion to the Pro League in his first attempt. He delivered exceptional performances at DreamHack Montreal 2019 and earned qualification for the Six Invitational 2020. His displays were so impressive that he was awarded the title of the world's best player on the Siege GG portal.
The French team faced performance issues following year 4 (2019-20). Despite winning in their region, the team struggled to make significant progress at major international competitions like the Six Invitational and Six Major. However, in 2022, Shaiiko not only reached his first international final but also clinched his inaugural international title at the Six Jönköping Major. By the end of the season, he secured his second award for being the best player in the world over the course of four seasons— a remarkable achievement considering his past ban.
Counter-Strike: Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut
Some say the Frenchman was born to play Counter Strike, and the reason is quite simple – he was born on the exact same day the game was created, November 9, 2000.
ZywOo started his professional career rather discreetly, competing in smaller tournaments and playing for lesser-known teams like WySix, Magicians and benchwarmers. However, he still achieved remarkable results, such as winning the ESL National Championship France Summer 2018 with the aAa team and achieving a 1.70 rating, according to HLTV.org.
Team Vitality also entered the competitive scene around the same time, in 2018, and began building its first lineup with two reinforcements from G2 Esports, Dan "apEX" Madesclaire and Nathan "NBK" Jordan. Plus two players from Team Envy, Vincent "Happy" Cervoni, and Cédrick "RpK" Guipouy, and of course, ZywOo himself. During their first year, Team Vitality experienced positive moments, including winning the DreamHack Open Atlanta 2018 against Brazil's Luminosity, as well as solid performances in various qualifiers.
But it was in 2019 that the organization truly made its mark on the world stage. And for many, the story of the team and ZywOo began from this point onward. They started competing in major tournaments like IEM Katowice Major, DreamHack Masters Dallas and DreamHack Masters Malmö. Alongside the team's progress, the world witnessed this French phenomenon's skills. Here are some of ZywOo's key performances in his early high-level competitions:
- IEM Katowice 2019 Challenger Stage - 1.33 HLTV Rating
- ECS Season 7 Finals - 1.41 HLTV Rating
- ESL One Cologne 2019 - 1.33 HLTV Rating
- DreamHack Masters Malmö 2019 - 1.36 HLTV Rating
- EPICENTER 2019 - 1.53 HLTV Rating
In 2019, the player had an average rating of 1.27 (HLTV). Even though it was his first time competing at major tournaments, it also marks his highest rating to this day. The season was so monumental it earned him his first World's Best Player trophy— and he remains the youngest player to win the award, holding the record for a total of 19 years and 72 days. This marked the beginning of an incredible streak where the player has never ranked lower than second place in world rankings since.
In addition to the aforementioned achievements, it’s worth remembering that ZywOo also holds the record for the most kills in a single Bo5 match, with 143 eliminations in a game against Team Liquid during ESL Pro League Season 16.
Rocket League: Alexis “zen” Bernier
Born on February 20, 2007, zen is one of the key figures in the competitive Rocket League scene today, and like the others mentioned, he experienced a meteoric rise in his game.
Zen’s story begins at an even earlier age. He was just 13 in 2020 when he competed in the RLCS X Fall Regional 1 Qualifiers for a team named Space Knights — a team that also included Julien “Gaspow” Pereira (now a content creator) and Enzo “Seikoo” Grondein (currently a player for Team BDS). The trio managed to achieve promising results, but there was a problem: zen was playing. The competition rules didn't allow players under the age of 15, and Alexis hadn't reached the required age to participate. Consequently, the player was banned; he had been participating in the competition under the account name “Azu.” As a result, zen received a one-season penalty, barring him from official tournaments.
During this period away from competitions, the French player didn't give up on his dream of going pro. He continued playing ranked matches, even excelling in the 2v2 mode for a considerable time. Recognizing his potential, Team Vitality quickly took notice and signed the player even before he was eligible to play professionally. They knew they couldn't afford to miss out on this talent.
In his Vitality jersey, the player excelled in show match 1v1 tournaments, defeating prominent figures like the Brazilian Yan “yanxnz” Xisto Nolasco, the Belgian Tristan “Atow” Soyes, the North American Nick “Chronic” Iwanski, and another great French player, Axel “Vatira” Touret.
In his first major tournament, the Spring Split Major, Vitality arrived with a high rank in the European standings. Despite this, the team couldn't maintain their favoritism in the winner’s bracket match against Team BDS, pushing them into a part of the bracket where they couldn't afford to lose more games. However, with two clean wins against Gen.G and Rule One, Vitality showed the world they were ready to vie for the title. In an emotional match that was decided in overtime, the French team secured their spot in the grand final by defeating Karmine Corp.
The time for revenge against Team BDS arrived, a team that included “Seikoo,” zen’s former teammate from Space Knights. Yet, zen’s star shone brightly, netting a total of 11 goals in the two final games (earning him the top scorer title) and clinching the award for the tournament's MVP.
On August 13, Team Vitality contested the World Championship, and once again, the team emerged as champions, and once again, zen was crowned the tournament's best player. All of this at the tender age of 16.