We caught up with Damian "Furlan" Kislowski during the first day of the WESG 2017 World Finals and talked about AGO's development and the Polish scene.
Between their games against Swole Patrol and B.O.O.T-d[S], we sat down with Damian "Furlan" Kislowski who finished second at WESG 2016, and heard about the organizational changes AGO went through after getting new investment, their online struggles and the competition in Poland.
Can you give me a short overview of the last LAN you attended, the Play2Live Cryptomasters? How did it go for you and how did it feel after the win?
It was a very nice feeling, it gives us a lot of confidence. The most important thing is that we are confident after the tournament and we start playing better because of that. Now we believe in ourselves, that we can achieve something in the global Counter-Strike scene.
You qualified for ESL Pro League which is big thing. How has it been going for you there, so far, especially facing high tier opposition and adapting to them?
It's a big learning step for us, we still see that there is a gap between tier one teams and our team, which we are trying to eliminate. There is a huge difference when you are playing against tier 1 teams and when you are playing against tier 2 or 3 teams. We are used to playing and we know how to play against tier 2-3 teams, we have a good style playing against them. When we are facing a tier 1 team, we are still looking for our style, we have to adapt to that level of play.
Comparing your online results and offline results: at the beginning of the year you qualified for EPL, that was on LAN, and now you won this tournament in Minsk. But you couldn't qualify for Katowice and you couldn't make it through to ECS. So is there an issue playing online compared to playing offline?
At first, we were a good online team and we were not so good at offline events. And then we changed it a little bit, changed our style, so we are now better offline. That is greatly thanks to our performance coach, who was hired at the beginning of January. He is with us at every event, he is trying to fix our diet, to fix our exercise, do physical and mental preparation for each game, so we have 100% focus and we are at our best when we have to play the game.
We got the huge investment two months ago and there are a lot of organizational changes in our team. Sometimes when we are playing the online games we are in a big rush, we are coming back from somewhere, going to another tournament the next day, we have photo sessions, special meetings with new sponsors... so sometimes we can't focus 100% on our game when we have online matches, that's the main reason why our online performance last month was a little bit worse. When we are playing offline events, we are fully focused on the tournament, we have a free mind and full determination to win each game.
You touched on it already, but I want to address it directly as well. The support network you have now in terms of coaching, how has that been, what's the biggest difference you've noticed so far?
Huge, huge changes have been implemented in the last couple of months, we have 360-degree support from the organization, we don't only have the performance coach who is with us at events, we also have a development coach working on individual skills of the players. We have a lot of training and workshops provided by our organization to help us change our lifestyle, to learn how to change our diet, when to go to sleep, how to change our habits essentially. We introduced physical exercises, we are going to the gym, all in all, it gives us a big boost.
The big thing is that we work on our daily routine, we do it every day, and it helps us give our maximum in games. If we achieve the maximum level of our performance we can be the best. That's the main thing the organization is looking after, they care about us, if we have any issue in our private life, they help out. When we had a problem here, in the hotel, it was fixed instantly and the organization moved us to another great hotel without asking WESG.
Two years ago, there was practically only Virtus.pro in the Polish scene, maybe you guys doing something under Vexed etc., but the scene seemed pretty non-existent. Now there are a lot of teams, AGO, Kinguin, Venatores.... What do you think about the Polish scene as it is now?
There are two main factors that influenced how the Polish scene developed in the last year, the first was introducing the Polish Pro League ([FPL-like hub for Polish players]), because now it's much easier to scout new talent, even for professional players and teams who are looking for new players, rookies.
The second thing is that there are a lot of organizations that have been founded in the last few years, which are growing, have more sponsors and can provide decent conditions to the players, so they can focus only on the game. If you look back two years, there was no organization in Poland that could provide a salary and support for the players. All professional Polish players were playing for foreign organizations, like Virtus.pro from Russia or AGG from the United States.
A few years ago it was quite easy to win Polish qualifiers to almost any tournament, now it's very tough, there are a lot of teams who are playing good Counter-Strike, and even if they are placed only in the top 50 or top 80 of the HLTV ranking, they can play very good against tier 2 or 3 teams.
However, there is still a barrier between the Polish scene and the international scene. There are only three or maybe four teams, if you include Pride, who can fight at the international level. There is still a lot of players in Poland who only play domestic events, they don't know how to play against international teams. Sometimes it seems like they spend the whole month to prepare for a domestic game against us.
You were here last year with Kinguin as well. How do you feel coming back, do you think you will achieve a big result again?
I don't want to achieve the same result as last year, this time I want to win the tournament.