Ramona "GFi" Azween is a Counter-Strike veteran and a pioneer in the Asian scene, From the early 1.6 era to now leading her team, HSG, to dominate the region with hopes of taking success internationally despite the Asian scene's slow progress.
After their recent appearances on the international stage during ESL Impact Circuit, we had the chance to speak with her about the state of the Asian scene, her role in HSG, and more.
“rizegeeko,” BLIX.GG: Your team is a mix of Chinese and Malaysian players, are there any communication issues since the comms are in English?
GFi: Communication was never a main issue for us, we have a system with “keywords” mostly being set in English. And I call in 3 different languages that are English, Mandarin, and Bahasa Melayu. The reason for this is that my goal for me is to always be able to make my players feel comfortable speaking naturally during matches, so they're able to play on their best form.
BLIX: You said in an interview four years ago that the Asian women scene was growing, do you still believe the same, or has the scene hit a brick wall?
GFi: From where I come from, things were always undeveloped, due to the region and the opportunity. I believe that The scene will always grow, and it would never stop. It’s just the question of at what speed we can keep it growing, and I feel that having ESL impact being brought to female gamers, has not just given us the opportunity in Asia but an ecosystem to all the regions in the world.
BLIX: Asia has the least women's teams in CS:GO compared to the other regions, do you think that is a result of women not being interested in having a professional career or in the game itself?
GFi: I think it’s more towards lack of opportunities, and it somehow does not motivate players to stay and grind when you’re grinding towards a direction of an unknown. It is perfectly normal. But we do have a lot of talents here, we do have teams that are not signed under any org but are still following the professional practice system and participating in the open league. We’re going to have a female league on March 3rd in China, there are 16 female teams signed up including us. I guess the word is we have always been more isolated from the international tournaments and for that, we only could have more locals, and My greatest hope is for us to someday have that same ecosystem of leagues like in NA & EU, etc would have for females.
BLIX: In your opinion, What will it take to make the Asian scene thrive?
GFi: For us at HSG to keep doing what we’re doing, is to keep grinding and never lose hope no matter what is the circumstances of an outcome we may receive in the result. If it requires a greater sacrifice from us and myself in order for our region to have more opportunities and slots in the future. That’s our winning goal, not just winning a league or an event, But to seize it all.
BLIX: Do you think that the lack of strong competition in Asia will be a setback for your team and affect results in international LAN tournaments?
GFi: I would like to think that way, and if my boss agrees it would be easier for me, so I could keep my job Haha, I’m joking.
Well, first I do not think that should be a mentality of a sports athlete. I would like to think that, What we’re doing here is very special, it requires greater sacrifice to achieve greatness. For every setback, you encounter it has to be a challenge, not a misfortune, if the mindset is right and the goals are aligned within the organization and players, Greatness can be achieved even being in such regions. Not just for Asia, but also the rest of the world.
BLIX: Taking into consideration the lack of teams in Asia, do you often scrim or have boot camps? How do you prepare for LAN tournaments?
GFi: Yes, just like any other teams we have our boot camp in China, and we do our best to scrim against anyone that would play us, and we’re very fortunate that we have a community that is helpful and awesome here in Asia, that would help us prepare for the things we would need before we go to a LAN event.
BLIX: Do you think that HSG is tactically behind the other big teams from different regions with more chances to scrim and practice?
GFi: Probably, but that shouldn’t be the main reason if we don’t do well as a team and individually. The internet has become the most powerful resource for everyone in the world. If an individual or a team would want to work towards skills or tactical things it’s not even impossible for anyone to do it today, because of the internet. It’s about the work ethic, the way you choose to work towards it matters most, and if you work correctly the result you’re going to deliver would be the same as other big teams from other regions. Quality beats quantity, hopefully, it’s something we could deliver in the future.
BLIX: Have you tried other different roles before or is In-game leading something you always preferred?
GFi: Yes, I started as an entry, Then support, and for half a decade as an IGL. It’s not a preferred role, but it’s a role not many would like to take and I’m willing.
BLIX: You’re the highest-rated player in HSG, What is it like to balance between in-game leading and fragging?
GFi: I never felt being an IGL is a tough role because it’s something I’m willing to do and contribute as a player in a team, and also I’m blessed with good teammates around me, that’s probably what made it easy for me to be able to call and shoot at the same time. Just very fortunate and blessed.
BLIX: You’ve been playing with Hazel, Argent, XiaoWu, and hffo for quite some time even under Tyloo’s banner, do you feel like the line-up is complete and in the best form, and will it exceed expectations and have notable results on LAN?
GFi: Nothing is complete, there are still so many unturned stones, and things we don’t know could change and happen. But here at HSG, we like to do things to 300% and try to work with every single aspect we could before we would make any other big decisions regarding the team. We try not to take small steps, but rather a leap of hope.
BLIX: What are HSG's goals for 2023?
GFi: We’re coming for you, and we hope that you are ready for us next time.