Hugo “TheSwedishJoker” Nilsson Meier, BLIX.GG: Last year was a bit rough for you guys. You had quite a few events without a full roster and still managed to come second at ELISA and got to the Legends Stage at the Major. How was it for you guys and how did you manage through this period where you didn't have a full roster?
Fatih “gob b” Dayik: Yeah, it was not easy, for sure. It was hard to stay motivated as well because you're practicing very well and then one player is out again to illness or whatever, but we tried our best. As you said, our performances were not bad but were also not good but still a little bit satisfying, still a little bit unsatisfying.
It's like a mix of both, but hopefully, this year, if we can have one roster going for a longer term, I think we will be more satisfied than last year.
BLIX: Last year, we didn't quite see performances from you that convinced us that you would go that far in events when you were giving youngsters opportunities. Do you think that it kind of made you realize the issues that you had in the team and if something goes wrong, then you have these options?
gob b: Yeah, at least you can say this is the benefit of it. We tested the young players; we gave them a little taste of what tier-one competitiveness looks like and what the big stage looks like and I think they did a great job. At least we know that even if one player is maybe not capable of attending a tournament, we have the opportunity to replace them or to have a good substitute. And yeah, that makes us happy, but it was also challenging every time.
I had a plan for the future, a vision, and every time something like this happens, it's like a break a little bit... you need to be able to adapt on the way and this is also what we try to learn and try to improve but definitely, we are happy to have these good academy players who can substitute and even though it's a last-second call, they're performing at least to a level which surprised us and that makes us happy.
BLIX: Can you tell me a little bit about that vision that you are talking about?
gob b: Yeah, of course. My vision is always to get players to a certain level that they understand the game and then the game becomes very easy. Like, you can play strategies you have never played before just based on the game plan because the understanding is so high. And yeah, to bring the people to this point, you need to get through certain levels and certain stages as well as certain losses I would say. So, they go through like a circle. And if you are there on the third circle. I would say you are like, in a very good route and then you need consistency and yeah, I think we built up a lot of knowledge over the last six months for the younger players as well. And it takes some time until everything shows. And I think hopefully this year it's going to show what we learned last year.
BLIX: How is the dynamic between the academy and the main team at BIG? We've seen s1n come in and he did pretty well. He was a young guy and still put up some decent performances.
gob b: Before we didn't have a real plan but as you said, the last few months showed us that there's a big chance for us to, even if we work better together, that it could work even better. Before we worked together off the server, not with a big plan, we were just good friends with them (the academy team) and always if they have something to ask, they're asking but now we try to do it more systematically.
I would say my assistant coach is like the man in between the two projects. He knows what I want, and he compares what the Academy team wants and tries to build a bridge between them. So, there's more of a system in place this year and hopefully, this will help a lot of the players. We are always there in the boot camp, we are talking in between having breaks together and after the game, maybe we go out for dinner and of course, Counter-Strike is a big topic and it comes up often.
They ask some questions, and it starts some good discussions. This also helps us to build a bond outside of the game. This also helps when we are going on the server together, as we have this bond and understanding between each other.
BLIX: You've been coaching now for a little while, around eight months. Do you feel like you've gotten more into it now?
gob b: Those eight months have helped me to know how important everything is, and I know the players even more and how they work. Being a coach is different to being a captain. This is definitely something I always thought, and this experience has shown me that this was true. So, I need to learn a little bit of a new role as well and I was absent from Counter-Strike for over two years. So, it was also a challenge to get up-to-date and also learn a new position as well.
I think I did pretty great because I also had a lot of help from the organization, managers and also from my assistant coach. So, things are going well but I'm learning and getting better, and I hope I now have more understanding of how a coach should work or how I want to work.
BLIX: Do you still have that urge to go back as a player?
gob b: Yeah, I think sometimes I definitely have this urge. Just the competitiveness is not satisfying enough. That's why I'm happy to be back to tournaments. Even as a coach, the competitiveness is very high, and it definitely feels good. But sometimes I also feel like I would like to play, feel the energy. I don't think that will go away in the future as well. So, I am always like this active coach. I would also sometimes go on deathmatch to just feel the game better, to teach players better to understand what their problems are and challenge them in duels.
I would say I don't think this position is good. He's like, of course this position is good and then I kill everyone. Like, come on server, show me how to be on this competitive side. It's who I am, I think, and I don't think it will go away.
BLIX: How would you describe your role as a coach? What do you do with the players and are you involved with the academy at all?
gob b: I would say, first of all, it's very important for them that they can trust me and to build a sense of trust between us. Sometimes I might say something is not right, but I try to do the best for the team. This is what the players need to understand. And yeah, of course, I'm a very analytical, tactical guy as well but also hype. What I need to learn is to express or understand feelings, for example, sometimes I see a hint of a player having a problem with another player. Then I need to learn how to handle these things so that both are getting along with each other better.
Of course, they are not fighting but even if there's some small stuff in their head, it is important to get this out earlier. So, this is something I can work on. Other than that, I try to be a role model with regard to motivation and also work ethic. As I said, I am a very tactical and analytical guy and hopefully, the players feel that they can come to me and ask about game-related stuff, which is on a high level that we can discuss together and work it out together. This is what we were focusing on in the last two or three weeks now when we started to play again.
I tried to be more on a one-on-one side so players have more one-on-one time with me and even sacrifice sometimes practice time watching for myself. I’m watching the demos from my players. So that was, how do you say it, a new way to handle things and, yeah, let's see if it's going to work out.
BLIX: You played for a long time alongside tabseN as a player. Now you're the coach and he's the IGL. Does all the experience that you’ve had together make it a lot easier for you to work together in the team?
gob b: Yeah, definitely. I need to think to a certain level and then I say, at this point, I don't need to think any more about what we should play because you will have a lot of good mid-round calls. I can trust your mid-round calling. This is also what we need to have because then we are hard to read and yeah, that's why I can just think to one certain level. But I need to help him get the players to a level where in a high-speed situation and also a high-pressure situation, they can think clearly enough to make the right play.
And, yeah, this is like the combination right now. He was focusing on two players; I was focusing on two players. Then I bring in system errors from both sides together, help him and also try to help improve his calling. I think it helped a lot in the last six or eight months. I think he improved his calling a lot and, yeah, I'm just happy to have a captain like him. Also, his work ethic is very inspiring, so the players can be very proud.
BLIX: How has the practice been looking like coming into this event for you guys?
gob b: We're looking at like two hours of theory for the two maps we are playing on the day. Then we play two hours of practice, then an hour break, two-hour practice, and two hours, most of those two hours afterward are spent talking. So, it was very draining, even though it's just four practices. But, the four-hour theory is not that easy. It's very draining. So, we felt really drained after like four or five days. We're like, okay, we will have an online boot camp where we focus on playing now. And, yeah, we've been playing seven practice or eight practice matches a day for the last three or four days and always with a break or two breaks.
So, they were very long days and we said, hey, when we come to the BLAST event, we have a good practice room here, let's use it as a boot camp. Even though the tournament is very high on our priority list, we will use this for one-on-one stuff, going on the server, theory-crafting, all the stuff which takes a lot of time but it's worth it. It’s the job no one wants to do, to go on the server and talk it all through again and all the small stuff but yeah, it is worth it. And we will use this also as a boot camp. And like I said, the plan is now that we stay together for a long time and develop, through all the highs and lows. Even if this tournament doesn't go well, I still believe in our plan and hopefully, in a few months, we can surprise, even at this event, I think.
BLIX: Did you guys set any expectations and talk about what you guys would like to achieve this year?
gob b: The expectations are that we build a better map pool and also get better in maps where we are not that good and try to understand why we are not that good on those maps. That was something we wanted to work on as well as focusing on players one-on-one was maybe the main goal and I think it helped a lot. It will show later on because the players need to make their mistakes and their decision by themselves first. And, yeah, we can just show them the door and they need to go through it alone but at least we are helping them. I think they are progressing a lot at the moment but yeah, the goal was to improve the players on an individual level and also improve our map pool and it was not a lot of days, but I think we managed to do it.
Our interview with gob b continues in part two, where he talks about Anubis, the German scene and more.
Feature Images: Copyright BLAST | [@jakhoward]