MAJ3R: "We deserve more chances"
We caught up with Engin "MAJ3R" Küpeli during Space Soldiers' trip to Portugal and picked his brain on his move to Turkey, the team's rise to the top and their struggles to get invites.
Engin "MAJ3R" Küpeli made headlines at the start of the year as he decided to further his career in Turkey with Space Soldiers after playing for some of the most iconic French 1.6 teams, such as Millenium and eSahara.
The 26-year-old's vast experience has brought an added dimension to Space Soldiers, who placed fourth at the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG), while he was still on trial with the team.
During Space Soldiers' short stay in Lisbon for the 4Gamers CS:GO Masters, which they won after beating k1ck in the final, we sat down with MAJ3R for an in-depth interview about his time on the team. In part one of this two-part interview, he talks about Turkish teams' struggles to get sponsors and invites to international tournaments, his country's victory at The World Championships 2016 and the decision to leave France behind.
Over the years, Turkey has had some good players, but Space Soldiers are the first team fighting toe-to-toe with Europe’s best. What is the difference between your team and the ones that came before?
To be honest, i didn't follow the Turkish scene since I was playing in France. Now, I can see why the Turkish scene is behind the European scene. First of all, Turkey has never been a country known for producing many esports talents, there is only a small number of players who can play against the best European teams due to lack of experience at a top level. Secondly, there are no sponsors in Turkey, perhaps due to political issues, I do not know. The project of Space Soldiers is very serious because of our CEO, Mr. Bunyamin Aydin, founder and creative director of Les Benjamins, a very famous brand in Turkey and in the rest of the world as well. We are still searching for partners. In Turkey, there is no one willing to put in money. Let me give you Virtus.pro’s example, or Russia’s example, where there are people investing money into creating teams or creating a better and bigger esports infrastructure. In Turkey it’s not like this. Maybe people just do not trust [esports enough], so they do not invest their money. We are lucky that Mr. Bunyamin Aydin really trusts us and is putting money into this project.
What kind of conditions do you have?
We have a gaming house, everything is good. We have a really decent structure for a Turkish team, thanks to Mr. Bunyamin Aydin. I think it would not be possible to create another team like Space Soldiers in Turkey. You can look at Portugal, for example: you can create one big team, with a gaming house, but you cannot create a second one. It is about the country, the economy and other factors.
Turkish players often talk about Internet problems and how this issue puts them at a disadvantage against European teams. Is this something that affects your team?
Internet is still an issue. I can give you a good example: I played in France for ten years, so I was playing with the best internet, with like 10 ping. In Turkey, the main problem is not the ping but the loss. Every time we play we have loss, and it is variable: one day, we have zero loss, the other day we have two loss. The connection is not stable but it is very, very expensive. We have a 100mb download connection, which is the best internet you can have in Turkey, and it is so expensive. In France, I pay 20 euros for that connection; in Turkey, it costs ten times as much. Normal people cannot buy this kind of connection, so they all play with 60 or 70 ping. We have the best connection in the gaming house, with 40 ping. It is so ridiculous.
Last year, you helped Turkey to win the World Championship. Do you think that victory helped the community to look at Turkish players in a different light?
I think that, before that event, Turkish players like paz, XANTARES or Calyx were looked at as onliners, but thanks to this event they proved that they can perform the same way on LAN, even though the global level was not like it had been the year before. We tried to show what we are capable of, and it was still a big competition. When we got back to Turkey, the biggest TV news channel did a segment on our victory, they came to the gaming house to do an interview. In Turkey, people discovered that esports are new and big, and that they will get bigger.
Even though your team has been performing very well, you seem to have a hard time getting invites to tournaments. Even online, your team gets invites mostly to qualifiers and not to the main competitions. Why do you think this is still happening nowadays?
I do not know. To be honest, one month ago I wrote on Twitter about this problem. Our latest results have been pretty decent in my opinion, we lost to G2 in the qualifier for and then to Virtus.pro in ECS promotion. We did the best we could, and we were not getting any invites at that point. Now, we got invites to the qualifiers for the Minor and ESL One Cologne, which is good news, but I do not know what people were thinking in the past. On Twitter, I was told that they [tournament organisers] were watching the top 20 in HLTV.org’s ranking. But when I wrote that, we were ranked 18th, and some teams behind us were getting invites...
But if you are outside the top 20, you cannot get invites, so you cannot move up in the ranking. It’s a vicious circle…
I do not want to be rude, but it is like everything in life. When you have good connections…
We are not asking to be invited to all closed qualifiers, but if the main reason for the invites is the top 20 on HLTV, there were some qualifiers in which teams that were behind us got invited ahead of us, so I just wrote on Social Media to understand the issue. But we will do our best to prove that we deserve more chances!
Do you think you deserve more opportunities?
We do. I am not saying we need to have more opportunities, I think we are working hard and that we deserve it. We want to show to the world what we are capable of, we want to play against the best teams. If you ask me, playing against tier 1 and tier 2 teams is very different. I find it harder to play against tier 2 teams because it is another gameplay. They play very aggressively, rushing you all the time, all together. Tier 1 teams play in a more classic way and are more organized, which is easier for me because I have experience at that level. I can try to see what they are doing and try to find a solution. Tier 2 teams do not give you time to think, they are constantly in your face. That is also why I want to play against the best teams.
I really think that if you want to be successful as a team in CS:GO, you need to understand how to play classic, how to be organised and how to communicate to find a solution to what the opponent throws at you. For me, CS is like a chess game, you have five pawns and you need to move them depending on how the opponent acts. Decision-making is key to success, and that is not something you can learn [easily], you need to go through certain situations again and again, and learn from your experiences.
You have spent most of your career in France. Last year, you decided to move to Turkey. Why did you decide, all of a sudden, to continue your career in a new country?
When we played at TWC, my Turkish was not so good. I was born in France, both of my parents are Turkish, but we did not speak Turkish that often. So it was kind of hard for me, the leader of the team, to explain myself and to explain how I wanted the team to play. So I made the decision to move to Istanbul for at least two years so I could show the team in person how we had to play. It was a decision for the team and for my career in esports. I have made some personal sacrifices, but that's okay. When you want to win, you need to give everything. I would not want to have any regrets and think, after I stop playing Counter-Strike, that I should have moved to Turkey and that the other players could not understand me. So I made this decision.
How is your Turkish right now?
Better, much better. It has been three months now. It is not perfect, but it’s better.
You are by far the most experienced player on the team. You played for some of the best French teams, alongside big players like Mickael "mSx" Cassisi. What do you think that you have brought to the team?
I have brought more structure. The team played in a classic way but they could not understand the purpose behind playing that way. But we also have someone else on the team who is very experienced and is not very known. That person is the manager, coach and father of the team, Canpolat "hardstyle" Yildiran. Some people may think that he is just here to take care of practical stuff, but he has been following CS for more than ten years, he knew me from 1.6. When I arrived in Istanbul, I thought I would talk to him about Counter-Strike and he would not understand anything. But when I spoke with him I understood that he knew a lot about the game and that he would be very helpful in creating a good project for Space Soldiers. He was doing everything alone before I joine, and I have a lot of respect for him because he has also sacrificed many things in his personal life so that the Turkish scene could grow. He is the architect of the team and he has build it, little by little. Space Soldiers are here today because of him, and I am happy to have met him. Hopefully, we will create something even better in the future, together.