We sat down with Zainab "zAAz" Turkie ahead of her team’s debut under Besiktas to discuss the change in organisation as well as the recent roster swaps.
The former Secret and Dynasty team made headlines earlier on Friday as they were unveiled by Turkish football club Besiktas, putting an end to a six-month association with RES-Gaming.
In this interview, conducted ahead of the GIRLGAMER Esports Festival, which kicks off on Saturday in Estoril, zAAz opens up on topics concerning the issues with RES, bringing Petra "Petra" Stoker back into the team, the current state of female Counter-Strike, and more.
You added potter at the start of the year and removed her after just a couple of events. What happened? In your tweet, you mentioned that it was “hard to figure out the distance” between Europe and North America.
We had been trying to practise with her, but she lives in the US, while we live in Europe, and it did not work out. We had been promised that we would move her to Europe in February and that we would all move to Dubai in September, but it never happened. We had a lot of problems, RES-Gaming have a lot of good guys but things didn't work out as we expected them to, and this made us not practice at all. During those six months, due to these circumstances we only managed to practice for two weeks. We decided in the end to just play with a full European team - it’s the easiest solution, to be honest - and to leave RES Gaming. As you know, Kemal used to be my boss, and he is also working with Besiktas now. We have been good friends for three years and we talked about us joining the club and it sounded interesting.
What will change for the team? What kind of support will Besiktas provide?
Besiktas will give us whatever we want, to be honest. They are very supportive, and that is exactly what we need as players. We have a bootcamp house in Turkey, like a player arena, and we will have full access to it.
Have they explained to you their plans for esports and for CS:GO in particular?
They want to grow. They want new teams, in new games, all that. For now, I just know that. I do not follow their other teams, I do not understand other games, to be honest [laughs]. So far, we are very happy to be in Besiktas, a good home that supports us.
Going back to the line-up, why did you decide to bring Petra back after removing her?
When Petra joined us, last year, the motivation and the atmosphere in the team were not great. We practised like twice with her. A lot of things happened in the team back then, and we did not have the motivation to play. I had always wanted to play with Christine [potter]. I had known her since forever, so it had always been a dream of mine to play with her and I wanted that to happen, we had been talking about it for two years. Then, when we finally found an organisation that could make it happen, we chose Christine over Petra. That is basically it. After what happened, we decided to play with a full European team. Petra is a great player, she has only been playing CS for three years and it is amazing how good she is. We did not give her a proper chance the first time, but we are giving her one now, and we are really happy with the team.
What is the situation of kr4sylya? Is she still on trial?
We initially decided to try her out, but then we spoke all together and decided to make her an official member. She is 16 years old, this is her first tournament. A great player, very smart, it is insane, she has not been playing for that long, either. She reminds me of myself when I was 16, a bit cocky, a great attitude for the game, that is what I love about her. Her attitude is perfect for the game, and to compete you need that sort of attitude, to be strong mentally, you know? I believe in her. Even though she may be nervous for this tournament and may not perform as well as we expect her to, I am still not going to judge her because it is her first tournament and I am ready to give her a chance.
You placed third and second at the last two events you attended, Copenhagen Games and IEM Katowice, but I guess it was not that bad as you said that you had barely practised. Are you eager to win tournaments again?
Yes. For the first time, we, especially juliano, vilga and me, because we have been together for so many years, feel pretty confident. Even though we only created this line-up recently, it just feels like everyone understands each other. For the first time in a year, I feel pretty confident.
What are your thoughts on the state of the female scene, in terms of frequency of tournaments and the level of the teams competing?
Obviously we need more tournaments, we need more people watching female CS because a lot of people look down on it. There is a big difference between male and female CS, and it is how it is, you know? I hope that can change one day, but still, people need to give us a chance. We are also players, we are also gamers, and we all actually try. But it would be very nice to have more tournaments. It is boring to have only a few tournaments this year. I can only hope that it will change.
Is there a reason why female teams in Europe do not compete in open tournaments, like DreamHack Open qualifiers and ESEA, as often as female North American teams do?
We will actually start doing it, we have just been waiting to feel comfortable with the line-up. A lot of other teams do not want to do it because they feel they do not have a chance, they feel it is not worth it. But it’s wrong to think like that. It’s better to play against better teams, that is how you improve and change as a player and as a team. It is hard to say. For us, we want to try that at least, and if we get smashed, then we will at least know that we tried.
Besiktas is your fourth organisation in two years. Are you disappointed with this, or do you feel this is the result of the way the female scene is going?
It is not about the female scene, it is just that things happened in organisations. There has never been a problem with players or with the team. We joined Team Secret when Kemal was a part of it, when he left Secret we followed and changed our team name to that of his new organisation, Dynasty, and, after two years with him, we went to RES. It didn't work out as we wanted, and our obvious choice was to keep working with Kemal, who then introduced us to Besiktas. So, for us, it feels like we were only in two organisations, Kemal and RES, just changing names. It feels like we have found a serious organisation in Besiktas, a proper one. We can’t do more than just hope for the best, you know? At least we are not giving up, and that is what matters the most.